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people from the North of Central America (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) and Nicaragua have been uprooted from their homes. 


68 percent increase in the number of unaccompanied children fleeing violence and persecution in 2019 vis-a-vis the previous year. 



The number of people seeking international protection in Mexico in 2019 was nearly 20 times more than in 2015.

About the Crisis in Central America

The North of Central America (NCA) – a region comprising El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras - is one of the most dangerous places on earth. Gang violence, threats, extortion, persecution and sexual violence have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes in search of safety and a better life.  Approximately 500,000 people have sought refuge in neighboring countries and more than 250,000 have been internally displaced inside the region. 

In 2018, political turmoil and persecution in Nicaragua also triggered a massive exodus in the region, with more than 102,000 people seeking safety in neighboring countries, such as Costa Rica and Panama. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the vulnerabilities of people in NCA. Lockdowns and restrictions of movement have allowed gangs to exert control over food and medicines in certain areas as well as to target people more easily. Furthermore, many have lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic’s economic impact and violence against women has soared.


Gang violence is forcing people from the North of Central America to flee their homes

What is UNHCR doing to help in Central America?

The UN Refugee Agency is working closely with governments in the NCA region to strengthen protection alternatives and encourage long term solutions for people forced to flee. Through the MIRPS (Regional Comprehensive Protection and Solutions Framework), UNHCR undertakes the following activities:

    • Providing shelters and protection services to deliver immediate assistance to people on the move. 
    • Working with host countries to help coordinate response plans and establish fair and efficient refugee status determination procedures.
    • Providing cash-based assistance as well as livelihoods and educational opportunities to support internally displaced people, women, children and members of the LGTBI community.
    • Delivering relief efforts- such as food, hygienic kits, healthcare and psychological support - to refugees and displaced people during the pandemic. 
    • Launching campaigns, such as My face, their stories campaign to promote peace and coexistence with host communities.

    Learn more about What We Do.

Stories from the Central America Refugee Crisis

Central America Displacement Crisis Explained


Jobs program in Mexico brings hope to displaced families from Central America

See all stories about the Central America refugee crisis >

Facts about the Central America Refugee Crisis

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

A girl from Honduras stands outside of her room in Tapachula, Mexico after fleeing gang violence. 

  • Unaccompanied minors make up a large portion of those seeking refuge from the North of Central America. They undertake treacherous journeys alone to avoid gang recruitment and face heightened risks of being kidnapped, trafficked, raped or killed.
  • LGBTI people are also fleeing violence and persecution in the region. As of November 2019, at least 88 percent of LGBTI asylum seekers from the NCA reported having suffered sexual and gender-based violence in their home countries.
  • Caravans - massive population movements - have become a popular method of migration for people fleeing the North of Central America. In January 2020, a caravan of 8,500 people departed from Honduras, causing a humanitarian crisis at the Guatemala-Mexico border.


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