EMERGENCIES

Central America Refugee Crisis

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2,249% increase

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of people from the Northern Triangle who have sought refuge in surrounding countries increased by 2,249 percent. 

539,500 displaced people

By the end of 2019, there are expected to be 539,500 people displaced from Central America. 

49,000 Salvadorian children

drop out of school 

In 2018 alone, 49,000 children and adolescents in El Salvador dropped out of school. In Guatemala and Honduras, there are over 2 million children out of school. 

Background

Gang warfare and violence have transformed parts of Central America into some of the most dangerous places on earth. In recent years, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala (known as the Northern Triangle) have experienced a dramatic escalation in organized crime by gangs, called maras.

Thousands of parents have fled with their families and, in many cases, children have made the perilous journey alone. These unaccompanied children are some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees – they have witnessed horrific violence and faced extreme risk. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is on the ground responding to this mounting crisis, but the needs are growing. 

Current homicide rates are among the highest ever recorded in Central America. Several cities, including San Salvador, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, are among the 10 most dangerous in the world. The most visible evidence of violence is the high rate of brutal homicides, but other human rights abuses are on the rise, including the recruitment of children into gangs, extortion and sexual violence.

Voices of the Crisis

VIDEO

El Salvadorian Brothers Flee Gang Violence for Mexico (1:36)

Stories from the Central America crisis

Refugee mother finds hope and opportunity in Mexico

UNHCR appeals for regional talks on Central America displacement

See all stories about the Central America refugee crisis >

Central America Camps and Settlements


Three Salvadorian children who now live in a bakery in Guatemala after fleeing due to gang violence. 

  • Asylum applications from Central America and Mexico made up about half of all applications to the United States. 
  • Between 2011 and 2017, asylum applications from the Northern Triangle have increased 991 percent. 
  • Women, children, and unaccompanied minors make up a large portion of those seeking refuge from the Northern Triangle. 
  • 1.5 million children are out of school in Guatemala. School desertion often leads to confinement at home, child labour, forced or coerced recruitment, internal or cross-border displacement, among other consequences.

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