Migration data in Central America

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The region of Central America1 (including Mexico) can be characterized by the following migration dynamics: (1) outmigration from countries in the region to Northern America, in large part to the United States; (2) intraregional migration flows (migrants originating from countries in the region moving to other countries within the same region), with the main destination countries being Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica and Panama; (3) transit flows (mainly of migrants originating from the Caribbean, South America, Asia and Africa) through countries of the region often with the intention of arriving to Northern America; as well as (4) notable return migration flows mainly from the United States and Mexico to countries of origin in northern Central America (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador).

More recently, the region has been the destination of mixed flows of refugees and migrants from Venezuela, with Panama, Mexico and Costa Rica serving as the main destination countries (International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (R4V).

Beginning in early 2020 onward, the COVID-19 pandemic has made a significant impact on migration in the region. Overall regional mobility, migrant returns, migration routes and practices, migrant apprehensions recorded in Mexico and at the southwest United States border, visa issuances, as well as a multitude of other related phenomena have been affected by the pandemic, in part due to movement restrictions and health and sanitation measures implemented by countries in the region in order to contain the spread of the virus (IOM, 2020).

Considerable displacement events caused by the 2020 hurricane season (historically one of the most active registered in the Atlantic) added to the changes witnessed in 2020 as result of the pandemic. Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua in particular were deeply impacted by Hurricanes Eta and Iota in November 2020, and the pandemic has complicated the disaster response in the region (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), 2021).

In terms of migration data, the main sources of information in the region are derived from administrative records on migration collected and published by migration and border control authorities in countries in the region. Important statistical information on migrants, migration and relevant themes is also collected and distributed by national statistics and census offices, other line ministries and central banks (IOM, 2019).