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Quarterly Mixed Migration Updates, January to March 2021

This article presents the key updates on mixed migration from five regions around the world during the first quarter of 2021. Links to the full Quarterly Mixed Migration Updates per region are included below.

 

Latin America and the Caribbean

Key Updates Quarter 1 – 2021

  • The problematic of refugees and migrants coming from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean being left stranded in the region is increasing, as a result of extended border closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In January, there were between 680 and 1,000 extra-regional refugees and migrants – predominantly from Haiti, followed by Cuba and several African countries – stranded in Necoclí, a Colombian town near the border with Panama. In February, 1,500 people on the move were blocked in camps throughout Panama. At the same time, approximately 600 people on the move, mostly Haitians, were stranded at the Brazil-Peru border, while trying to migrate north toward or returning home.
  • More and more countries in the region are militarizing their borders. Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru are the latest countries to militarize their borders aiming to prevent irregular migration. Peru deployed 1,200 troops to the border, followed by Ecuador with 200 troops on January 27th. Mexico, that had started militarizing its southern border in January, increased the presence of National Guard troops to 8,715 officers as of March 22nd.
  • Onward migration in the region is on the rise. Haitian refugees and migrants who had previously settled in Brazil have been leaving the country due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, faced with long processing times for asylum and immigration proceedings in Mexico and changes in the U.S. immigration policy, many asylum seekers in Mexico have also changed their destination and decided to head toward the U.S.
  • Sharp increase in the arrival of unaccompanied and separated children at the U.S. border. Between January and March, 34,173 children on the move were apprehended at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Only 30 of them were expelled, while the remaining were allowed entry, in line with the new U.S. administration’s position on the protection of refugee and migrant children.
  • Colombia and the U.S. announce strategies to regularize Venezuelans in their territory. Colombia is set to grant temporary protected status to approximately 2.5 million Venezuelans and the U.S. to about 300,000 Venezuelans.
  • During the first quarter of 2021, two migrant caravans departed from San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The first caravan departed in January and registered between 8,000 and 9,000 refugees and migrants. On March 31st, a caravan with around 400 people on the move – including a considerable number of unaccompanied children – departed Honduras. Both caravans encountered Guatemalan military forces at the border upon entry, preventing their passage.

Thematic Focus: Unaccompanied children on the move toward the U.S.

Read the full QMMU

 

North Africa

Key Updates Quarter 1 – 2021

  • Land and sea arrivals to Italy and Spain from North Africa through the Central (CMR) and Western Mediterranean Routes (WMR) increased by 65% compared to the same period in 2020. Arrivals to Malta (decreasing by 98%) as well as land arrivals to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla (decreasing by 79%) saw sharp declines compared to Q1 in 2020.
  • 4,005 refugees and migrants were intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard in Q1, representing an 85% increase compared to the same period in 2020.
  • 387 refugees and migrants were reported dead or missing, of which 306 were along the CMR and 81 along the WMR, from January – March 2021.
  • Comprising 15% (1,087) of arrivals, Tunisians continued to represent the top nationality to arrive in Italy via the CMR between January – March 2021.
  • The trend of increased departures on the Atlantic Route towards the Canary Islands sustained over Q1, with the Spanish Ministry of Interior reporting that more than half of the number of arriving refugees and migrants had travelled along the Atlantic Route.
  • Spanish media reported a recent increase in unaccompanied Moroccan minors among people on the move arriving to the Canary Islands.
  • Eastern Sudan has continued to receive refugees from Ethiopia’s Tigray region over the course of Q1, particularly in Blue Nile State. The number of registered refugees stood at 62,166 as of March 23rd. Since November, 41,181 individuals have been relocated from border transit camps to the refugee camps of Um Raquba and Tunaydbah.
  • Algeria reportedly expelled close to 3,800 refugees and migrants to the desert at the border with Niger in Q1. NGOs and UNHCR have denounced these deportations, with individuals not having the right to seek international protection.

Thematic Focus: Mediterranean crossings from Libya

Read the full QMMU

 

West Africa

Key Updates Quarter 1 – 2021

  • Cross-border displacement to Maradi, Niger: In early March, UNHCR estimated that more than 7,660 people from northwest Nigeria had crossed the border into the Maradi region of Niger thus far in 2021, primarily women and children fleeing attacks in Nigeria’s Sokoto state. This brought the number of Nigerian refugees in the region to 77,000.
  • Election related displacement in Central African Republic (CAR): Violence surrounding elections on 27 December 2020 in CAR caused large-scale displacement, with UNHCR reporting as of late March that some 132,810 people had been newly displaced within the country since the beginning of the electoral crisis, and that 114,932 people had fled to Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo since then.
  • Canary Islands arrivals: Continuing the trend seen in 2020, approximately half of arrivals to Spain in the first quarter of the year were to the Canary Islands. Despite a drop in arrivals in February, some 3,215 refugees and migrants arrived by sea to the Canary Islands during the first quarter of the year.
  • Expulsions from Algeria: While there seems to have been a lull in the beginning of the year, some 6,249 individuals were expelled from Algeria into Niger in March.
  • Gambia migrant killings re-examined: New evidence presented to the Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission directly connected former president Yahya Jammeh to the summary execution of more than 50 West African migrants in 2005.

Thematic Focus: Journey preparation and experiences of young people in West Africa

Read the full QMMU

 

East Africa and Yemen

Key Updates Quarter 1 – 2021

  • Ongoing hostilities in Ethiopia’s Tigray region impact displacement in the region: More than 62,000 Ethiopians have fled to Sudan due to the ongoing hostilities in the Tigray region.
  • Low numbers of refugees and migrants arriving in Yemen along the Eastern Route: New arrivals of East Africans along the Eastern route remain low with only 5,113 new arrivals recorded in Yemen between January and March 2021. This represents an 82% decrease from the 27, 948 arrivals reported during the same period in 2020.
  • Spontaneous returns from the Gulf to East Africa increase this quarter: 4,868 refugees and migrants were recorded to have returned from Yemen to East Africa this quarter (at least 4,559 arrivals to Djibouti and 309 to Somalia).
  • Fire in migrant detention facility in Yemen claims lives of at least 60 migrants: At least 60 migrants (believed to all be Ethiopian) were killed in a fire that broke out at a detention facility in Sanaa. Migrants were protesting poor conditions at the facility when projectiles were fired into the center by Houthi rebels.
  • Killings of Somalis in South Africa sparks protests: In February 2021, more than 200 protestors took to the streets in South Africa’s Port Elizabeth to protest the killing of 4 Somalis in alleged xenophobic attacks.

Read the full QMMU

 

Asia

Key Updates Quarter 1 – 2021

  • COVID-19 induced economic downturn leads migrants to explore upskilling in order to re-enter job markets: As COVID-19 continues to exacerbate situations of vulnerability for migrants and refugees, many have explored opportunities to upskill in order to re-enter the labor market.
  • Myanmar’s multiple crises trigger migration and displacement: Escalating violence at the hands of the country’s military continues to pressure Myanmar nationals to seek safety in neighboring countries, including India and Thailand.
  • Continued health concerns for refugees and migrants in immigration detention facilities: This quarter saw a spike in COVID-19 cases in detention centers across Asia, including Japan, Thailand, and Australia’s offshore centers in Papua New Guinea.
  • Lengthy resettlement waits trigger growing desperation among refugees and people seeking asylum in Indonesia: This quarter saw reports of a compounding mental health crisis among refugees stuck in limbo in Indonesia, including growing desperation, self-harm, and suicide rates.
  • Uncertainty around the inclusion of refugees and migrants in COVID-19 vaccination plans across the region: Refugees in Nepal became the first refugees in the Asia-Pacific to have received COVID-19 vaccinations. Nations including SingaporeThailandSouth KoreaMalaysia, and the Maldives have all announced that they will offer the vaccines to foreign workers. However, the actual implementation of those vaccination plans remains uncertain while “invisible” migrants, including those with no legal documents, as well as refugees are likely to be the last in line.
  • Asia-Pacific Regional Review of Implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: From 10 to 12 March, the first regional review of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Asia and the Pacific was held. The review called for greater collaboration among countries to implement the global framework to among other things, reduce situations of vulnerability experienced by migrants across the region.

Thematic Focus: A perfect storm – Malaysia’s forced deportation of refugees and migrants from Myanmar amid the military coup

Read the full QMMU