Millions of people worldwide face humanitarian crises that force them to leave their homes behind in search of safety. Factors like escalating violence, conflict, the impacts of climate change, and increasing food insecurity contribute to these crises and compel individuals to seek refuge amidst uncertainty and adversity. 

Asylum seekers in Latin America encounter formidable challenges in their pursuit of safety. From treacherous routes to obstructive policies, their path is fraught with risks of exploitation, violence, and discrimination.

An illustrated image showing a form that indicates that someone is departing immediately.
Many of the people attempting to reach safety along the Latin American route have no choice but to flee with little hope of one day returning. They are women escaping gender-based violence, LGBTQ+ individuals fleeing persecution, and families and children seeking protection from gang violence.
Photo: Pal for the IRC

The escalating violence and conflicts, rising poverty and hunger rates, and the impacts of climate change are compelling millions of people in Latin America and the Caribbean to flee their countries. As of October 2023, there has been an increase in the number of people crossing the Darien Gap from places like Haiti and Ecuador.

The situation for Hondurans mirrors that of other asylum seekers in the region. In 2023, nearly 42,000 Hondurans applied for asylum in Mexico, making them the second-largest nationality seeking safety in the country, trailing only behind Haitians. The increasing numbers suggest a deteriorating situation, as Hondurans topped the list of asylum applicants in Mexico during the first months of 2024, with almost 13,000 applicants as of the end of April.

Natalia, a 22-year-old from Honduras, faced repeated threats and coercion from non-state armed groups in various cities. Despite attempting to establish businesses and livelihoods, persistent pressure and extortion demands left her and her family vulnerable and unsafe. With no respite from the threats and no stable environment to sustain their lives, Natalia was compelled to leave her home country in search of a safer and more secure future for herself and her family.

Unfortunately, asylum seekers often face challenges throughout their journeys Natalia vividly recounts the hardship she experienced in her attempt to seek asylum in Mexico, stating, "[...] we spent ten days sleeping on the street while waiting for our humanitarian visa at the immigration center in Mexico. On the street, we endured the sun, hungry all day long, because we needed the papers."

In October 2023, an IRC assessment in Mexico highlighted the urgent needs of people on the move. Lack of safe accommodation was prevalent and food insecurity was widespread, with many surviving on just one meal a day.

The struggle of asylum seekers in Latin America is exacerbated by rampant misinformation and a lack of access to reliable sources. Many face challenges in navigating complex legal processes due to misinformation spread within their communities or by unofficial sources.

Illustration of a person working on a laptop with a screen reading "search".
Lack of reliable sources and misinformation often leads to confusion and delays, further deepening the plight of those seeking refuge.
Photo: Pal for the IRC

Access to reliable information is paramount for migrants like Natalia as it enables them to locate essential services. InfoDigna, Info’Palante, and CuéntaNos—part of the global Signpost project – are digital information platforms designed to support forcibly displaced people in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and northern Central America respectively.

Signpost is designed to meet the information needs expressed by IRC users and ensure they can receive trustworthy answers to their most commonly asked questions and referrals to meet their needs, helping reduce the risks they face every day. The platforms enable two-way communication, where a team of trained moderators provide direct assistance to requests or questions they receive.

Information published by the IRC in 2023 indicates that 75% of the 3,661 cases handled by InfoDigna moderators were requests for assistance and guidance on asylum issues. These inquiries encompassed essential details such as the asylum application process, eligibility criteria, and designated entry points. Following closely, inquiries concerning legal aid and documentation comprised the second most prevalent reason (12%), while safety and security information accounted for nearly 3% of queries.

“If we had known before, well, we wouldn't have struggled so much. We walked quite a bit to find a place to stay,” said Natalia after describing the hardship she and her family had to go through to find shelter in Ciudad Juarez. It’s worth mentioning that before arriving in Ciudad Juarez, Natalia and her family had several unsuccessful attempts to apply for asylum elsewhere in Mexico.

In addition, gender-based violence emerges as a significant threat amid the numerous challenges encountered by migrants during their journeys. A study conducted by the IRC in early 2022 revealed that in the northern border cities of Mexico, 23% of surveyed asylum seekers identified sexual violence as their primary concern. This concern was particularly pronounced among women, with 60% recognizing it as their main risk. Additionally, human trafficking ranked as the second most mentioned risk at 14%, followed closely by domestic and economic violence, both cited by 13% of respondents.

In light of unprecedented displacement across, into, and out of Mexico, the IRC has provided integrated protection services as part of a regional project funded by the European Union (EU). Along Mexico's northern border, this project has involved establishing secure environments where migrants including women, girls, children, and LGBTQ+ individuals can access reliable sources that enable them to locate essential services. This encompasses both physical and emotional support services, ranging from psychosocial assistance to case management for survivors of gender-based violence, along with awareness-raising activities.

Two people stand next to each and pose for a photo.
Natalia, 22, and her husband José, 29, from Honduras, pose for a portrait in a shelter in Ciudad Juárez, where they received protection support from the IRC’s EU-funded project.
Photo: Pal for the IRC
About our work with the European Union

The International Rescue Committee partners with the European Union to provide life-saving support to people caught in conflict and disasters around the world. Our work funded by the EU enables people to survive, recover and rebuild their lives.