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UN agencies launch emergency plan for millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants

A new plan to cover the urgent needs of millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, coordinated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), was launchedin Geneva on Friday

The plan, the first of its kind in the Americas, is a strategy to deal with an estimate three million people, the largest exodus from a single country in the region, in recent years. The vast majority of them have sought refuge in Latin American and Caribbean countries. The numbers leaving Venezuela have increased dramatically from 2017, and now, an average of 5,500 are crossing the border every day.

In the foreword to the plan, Eduardo Stein, UN Joint Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, describes the challenges faced by Venezuelans he has met during his visits to the region, saying that they spoke of “hunger, lack of access to medical care, insecurity, threats, fear. They are families, women alone, children, young boys and girls, all in conditions of extreme vulnerability. All of them saw no other option than to leave their country – sometimes walking for days – seeking to live in dignity and to build a future.”

The launch of the plan was also an appeal for funding, focusing on four key areas: direct emergency assistance, protection, socio-economic and cultural integration; and strengthening capacities in the receiving countries. $738 million is needed in 2019, targeting 2.7 million people spread across 16 countries.

The UN agencies praised the generosity shown towards the refugees and migrants by regional host countries, described by Filippo GrandiUN High Commissioner for Refugees, as “humbling,” adding that the appeal underscores the urgency of this complex and fast-evolving situation and the need to support the host communities.” The infrastructure of these countries, and their ability to deal with the influx of refugees and migrants, are being stretched beyond capacity:

[This story was originally posted on UN News

 

Extracts from the Plan - related to the Caribbean

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Summary of  Objectives for 2019

DIRECT EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE

OBJECTIVE 1

Produce and disseminate information regarding the profile and vulnerability of refugees and migrants from Venezuela as well as affected host community, to relevant stakeholders to improve the response.

OBJECTIVE 2

Ensure refugees and migrants from Venezuela and vulnerable host communities have access to immediate basic needs, services, and assistance including NFI, shelter, food, WASH, health (including sexual and reproductive health as well as GBV related health interventions), and education.

PROTECTION

OBJECTIVE 1

Promote access to territory, alternative legal pathways, and legal aid and justice for refugees and migrants from Venezuela. 

OBJECTIVE 2

Strengthen community-based protection, grassroots refugee and migrant organizations, and two-way information gathering and sharing.

OBJECTIVE 3

Improve access to specialized services for refugees and migrants from Venezuela with specific needs such as GBV survivors, victims of human trafficking, UASC and others.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL INTEGRATION

OBJECTIVE 1

Support income generating interventions to improve the living conditions of refugees and migrants from Venezuela and vulnerable host communities.

OBJECTIVE 2

Create a welcoming environment for refugees and migrants from Venezuela, and support continued access to existing public services, including education and health.

CAPACITY STRENGTHENING

OBJECTIVE 1

Strengthen host governments’ essential services capacity and delivery, including in education, health, and social protection.

OBJECTIVE 2

Support policy, procedures, and systems development affecting refugees and migrants from Venezuela, including victims of human trafficking, as well as host communities, in compliance with humanitarian principles.

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Message on International Migrants Day - 18 December

Migration is a powerful driver of economic growth, dynamism and understanding. It allows millions of people to seek new opportunities, benefiting communities of origin and destination alike.

But when poorly regulated, migration can intensify divisions within and between societies, expose people to exploitation and abuse, and undermine faith in government.

This month, the world took a landmark step forward with the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Backed with overwhelming support by the membership of the United Nations, the Compact will help us to address the real challenges of migration while reaping its many benefits.  

The Compact is people-centered and rooted in human rights.

It points the way toward more legal opportunities for migration and stronger action to crack down on human trafficking. 

On International Migrants Day, let us take the path provided by the Global Compact: to make migration work for all.

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UN General Assembly President defends ‘landmark’ migration compact

Addressing recent reports that some countries are backing out of the United Nations global migration compact set to be adopted in December, UN General Assembly President Maria Espinosa on Wednesday defended the accord as a tool that would ensure all migrants everywhere have their rights safeguarded.

“The Compact allows enormous flexibility for countries to use the parts of the compact that can be adapted to their sovereign decisions and existing legal frameworks…it is a cooperation instrument,” said Ms. Espinosa, briefing reporters at UN Headquarters in New York.

She described the Global Compact for migration as a landmark agreement which will help ensure that migrants everywhere in the world have their rights safeguarded and are treated fairly.

The compact, which is due to be adopted at a conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, in December, sets clear objectives to make migration safe, orderly and regular; addresses the concerns of signatory governments and reinforces national sovereignty; and recognizes the vulnerabilities faced by migrants.

Ms. Espinosa said that she has been encouraged by the commitment of Member States and expects the Morocco conference to be a success: “Migration is part of the way the world develops, interacts and interconnects. We have seen lately unusual migration flows that need to be tackled and addressed multilaterally. And the response is precisely the Global Compact.”

As for reports that a number of countries are backing out of the agreement, the Assembly President said that the decisions of Member State governments must be respected: “We fully understand the decision of some countries that have decided they are not ready to commit, and it’s perhaps because they are taking the issue migration very seriously, and they need to have greater discussions and conversations domestically.”

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US must abide by humanitarian refugee accords: UN refugee agency

Responding to United States President Donald Trump’s proclamation which would deny political asylum to migrants crossing illegally into the country,  the UN refugee agency UNHCR, released a statement on Friday saying that the US must abide by international refugee protection accords.

The Presidential Proclamation would reportedly ban migrants applying for asylum outside official ports of entry, which will impact migrants attempting to illegally enter the country from the southern border with Mexico, although legal challenges are expected to follow the move.

The agency noted that, among the people in Central America and Mexico on the move northward today, many are fleeing life-threatening violence or persecution and are in need of international protection: “UNHCR expects all countries, including the United States, to make sure any person in need of refugee protection and humanitarian assistance is able to receive both promptly and without obstruction, in accordance with the 1967 refugee Protocol to which the United States is a party."

The statement points out that it is unrealistic to expect all asylum seekers to present themselves at the border and request protection, because the reality of refugee flight is complex and requires management in a structured way with dignified reception arrangements.

Official US southern border ports of entry have had a long-standing lack of sufficient capacity to receive migrants, which is forcing many vulnerable asylum-seekers to turn in desperation to smugglers and cross the border irregularly.

Many asylum-seeking families, says UNHCR, who are making this desperate choice, are not trying to evade border authorities.

Offering to support the United States, to guarantee that any person fleeing life-threatening violence or persecution is able to reach safe ground and is able to have their claim reviewed, the UNHCR statement concludes with the message that national security and dignified reception of refugees and asylum-seekers are not mutually exclusive, but rather mutually reinforcing.

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UN Chief: ‘full respect’ needed for national control of borders as human caravan moves through Mexico

With more than 7,000 Central-American refugees now on the march through Mexico towards the southern border of the United States in search of safety and work, all countries involved are being urged by the UN to liaise with key agencies on the ground providing support.

Answering questions from reporters at the daily press briefing on Monday, UN Deputy Spokesperson, Farhan Haq, said that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), had been boosting resources on the ground, as the caravan of mainly Honduran refugees and migrants made its way north, across the border between Guatemala and Mexico.

Mr. Haq said that UN Secretary-General António Guterres was urging all parties to abide by international law, including the principle of “full respect for countries’ rights to manage their own borders.”

According to media reports, what started as a small group of under 200 just a few days ago, has grown considerably. Mr. Haq told journalists that “it is estimated that the caravan comprises some 7,233 persons, many of whom intend to continue the march north.”

US President Donald Trump has reportedly responded to the march, by threatening to cut off foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador should the caravan of people fleeing their homeland, attempt to cross into the US illegally.

Earlier this week, a UN rights expert urged Member States not to prioritize security concerns over the basic human rights of migrants and refugees.

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UN rights chief slams ‘unconscionable’ US border policy of separating migrant children from parents

As part of his final global update, the United Nations human rights chief on Monday voiced his deep concern over recently-adopted United States border protection policies that have seen hundreds of migrant children forcibly separated from their parents.

“In the past six weeks, nearly two thousand children have been forcibly separated from their parents,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in his opening remarks to the 38th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva – the last session before his four-year term expires in August. 

Mr. Zeid said that the American Association of Pediatrics in the US, had called it a cruel practice of “government-sanctioned child abuse” which may cause “irreparable harm” with “lifelong consequences”.

“The thought that any State would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” he said, calling on the United States to immediately put a stop to the policy, and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In a statement issued on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres defended the rights of migrant and refugee children, but did not single out the US.

As a matter of principle, the Secretary-General believes that refugees and migrants should always be treated with respect and dignity, and in accordance with existing international law,” said a statement issued by his Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.

“Children must not be traumatized by being separated from their parents. Family unity must be preserved,” said the statement.

The human rights situation in the US was one of the many topics to be discussed at the latest Human Rights Council session, which runs through 6 July.

Mr. Zeid also expressed his deep concern about a bill presented to Parliament in Hungary last month which, if adopted, would effectively criminalize human rights monitoring at borders and within border zones, as well as criminalizing the provision of information, legal aid and assistance to migrants.

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UN led consultations highlight the benefits of migrants

 Although the net benefits of migration far outweigh its costs, the public perception is often the opposite, a senior United Nations official pointed out today, as the latest round of consultations on a global compact for migration began in New York.

“Such public perceptions and attitudes negatively influence sound migration policy choices. This must be reversed so that policy is evidence-based and not perception-driven”

Louise Arbour
UN Special Representative for International Migration


The UN Special Representative for International Migration  said that policies responding to false perceptions reinforce the apparent validity of these erroneous stereotypes and make recourse to proper policies that much harder.

The consultation is the fourth in a series of six thematic consultations that will take place this year and feed into the drafting of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), expected to be adopted by UN Member States in 2018.

An outgrowth of the New York Declaration, adopted at a 2016 UN Summit on refugees and migrants, the Compact will be the first intergovernmental negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the UN, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a comprehensive manner.

The current consultation, conducted by representatives of Member States, UN agencies, civil society, migrants and diaspora, examines the challenges and opportunities in leveraging the economic and social contributions of migrants to countries of origin and destination.

Ms. Arbour pointed out that in 2016 migrants sent $429 billion to their countries of origin – one of their most tangible contributions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in developing countries.

read the full story at - http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57243#.WXZtAWLyuM8

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UN envoy urges policies that reject ‘us vs. them’ migration tactics

8 May 2017 – A lack of trust leads to increased intolerance and xenophobia, the United Nations envoy on international migration told UN Member States told, calling on Governments to review and put in place effective migration policies that reject an “us vs. them” mentality between national and migrants.

“Migrants are not a burden. Even less so are they a threat. Properly managed, migration stands to benefit all,” Louise Arbour, the Special Representative for International Migration said in Geneva, kicking off the process to the first-ever global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, due to be adopted in 2018.

She urged Governments to ratify and implement all international and regional human right instruments and related conventions, so that their countries’ migration policies would be grounded in human right norms and standards.

“Success will rest in large part on your sustained engagement, in word and deed, to changing the optic by which we view migration, from a phenomenon currently feared by too many, to one that better reflects its overwhelmingly positive impact on society,” Ms. Arbour said.

The UN envoy was addressing the first informal session on the human rights of migrants, looking at their social inclusion and cohesion in societies, and the necessity to counter discrimination including racism, xenophobia and intolerance against migrants.

The two-day session opened today under the co-facilitation of Switzerland and Mexico. It is the first of six thematic discussions to be held between now and November, as consultations for the intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018, of which Ms. Arbour is the Secretary-General.Leading up to the conference, the UN launched the Together initiative last year to change negative perception and attitudes towards refugees and migrants, and to strengthen the social contract between host countries and communities, and refugees and migrants. The initiative bolsters the work of the 2016 UN Summit to Address Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants and its outcome, the landmark New York Declaration.

In today’s session, Ms. Arbour noted that deep-seated attitudes of prejudice and xenophobia, which many of the world’s 245 million migrants often confront, is particularly felt by so-called “irregular migrants” who enter, stay or work in a country without the necessary authorization.

While such migrants may have constituted administrative offences, “they are not crimes per se against persons, property or national security. And while states retain the sovereign prerogative to order their removal, the very presence of such migrants under their jurisdiction places certain obligations on national authorities.”

These obligations include protections, which despite political commitments, are not implemented, and include access to services.

“Putting in place ‘firewalls’ between immigration enforcement and public services is an effective way to facilitate access to justice, housing, health care, education, social protection and social and labour services for migrants,” Ms. Arbour said.

She continued that the erroneous perception of an increased influx of irregular migration, combined with a lack of trust in state capacities to deal with such influxes has led to increased intolerance and rejection of migrants – particularly in communities that face poverty or discrimination themselves.


Louise Arbour - UN Special Representative for International Migration

Louise Arbour

UN Special Representative for International Migration


“Distrust grows between host communities and irregular migrants when an effective migration policy is not in place, devolving into an ‘us vs. them’ mentality between nationals and migrants,” 



Irregular migration by some people feeds xenophobic and racist attitudes against all migrants, creating a “downward spiral of hatred that risks becoming insurmountable.”

In contrast, facilitating access to legal avenues for migration and access to work would reduce the need for many to migrate through irregular channels, the UN envoy noted.

“Policies related to migrants must include the participation of all actors with a stake in the outcome,” she said, “including local governments, trade unions, employers’ organizations, national human rights bodies, private sector, recruitment agencies, security and justice service providers, civil society and youth organizations and migrants.”

The second information thematic discussion will be held next month in New York. It will address drivers of migration, such as climate change and human-made crises.

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'We have to be the hope' for people most in need, says top UN humanitarian official

18 August 2016 – Praising the spirit and drive of relief workers, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O'Brien, has said the global humanitarian community is determined to not let political disagreements, conflicts or natural disasters get in the way of their ability to help the people who are most in need.

 

“We have to be their hope; that we can be the ones to reach them, even if nobody else can,” said Mr. O'Brien in an interview with UN News Service.

He added that it is also equally important that humanitarian actors, who are neutral and impartial, are provided with safe and unimpeded access.

Speaking specifically about the desperate humanitarian situation Syria, the UN relief chief underscored the urgency of ensuring safe access for relief workers.

“[Parties to the conflict] and all those who have influence on them [need] to recognize [that now] is the time to have a ceasefire […] and that there is safety for humanitarians to get in to meet those needs,” he stressed.

Mr. O'Brien also praised the bravery of humanitarian workers in the country, where intense fighting has not only put the lives of many at risk, but also severely impeded their ability to access or deliver humanitarian assistance to the people in need.

 

Turning commitments into action is vital

 

In the interview, taken just ahead of World Humanitarian Day, Mr. O'Brien, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the Day is an occasion for everyone, as global citizens, to reflect on the opportunity and to make a real contribution to meeting the needs of the human beings on this planet who're the most vulnerable.

He added that the Day is also linked to the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit which was held in Istanbul, Turkey, in late May.

The Summit provided a common purpose and understanding of the need to have strong political will to sustain the resources necessary to be able to respond to the needs of the more than 130 million people who require urgent live-saving assistance, explained Mr. O'Brien.

“We have about $21.6 billion this year [to] meet the needs of people, who have suddenly been – through no fault of their own – cast into crisis,” he said, underscoring that turning the commitments expressed at the Summit into action is vital.

“Those who made the commitments will become the champions for delivering on these commitments, and to build the will and support […] to help us better meet the needs of humanitarian suffering,” he added.

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