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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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In historic move, 164 countries adopt the Global Compact on Migration

The Global Compact for Migration was adopted on Monday by leading representatives from 164 Governments at an international conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, in an historic move described by UN Chief António Guterres as the creation of a “roadmap to prevent suffering and chaos”.

Speaking at the opening intergovernmental session, Mr. Guterres, said that the Compact provides a platform for “humane, sensible, mutually beneficial action” resting on two “simple ideas”.

“Firstly, that migration has always been with us, but should be managed and safe; second, that national policies are far more likely to succeed with international cooperation.”

The UN chief said that in recent months there had been “many falsehoods” uttered about the agreement and “the overall issue of migration”. In order to dispel the “myths”, he said that the Compact did not allow the UN to impose migration policies on Member States, and neither was the pact a formal treaty.

“Moreover, it is not legally-binding. It is a framework for international cooperation, rooted in an inter-governmental process of negotiation in good faith,” he told delegates in Marrakech.

The pact would not give migrants rights to go anywhere, reaffirming only the fundamental human rights, he said. Mr. Guterres also challenged the myth that developed countries no longer need migrant labour, saying it was clear that “most need migrants across a broad spectrum of vital roles.”

Acknowledging that some States decided not to take part in the conference, or adopt the Compact, the UN Chief expressed his wish that they will come to recognize its value for their societies and join in “this common venture.”

The United States did not endorse the Compact, and more than a dozen other countries either chose not to sign the accord or are still undecided. 

Marrakech Compact, reality vs myth

The Moroccan minister of foreign affairs, Nasser Bourita, banged his gavel announcing the adoption of the Compact, while outlining the various efforts his country has made to bring about global consensus on international migration.

Along with Climate Change, unregulated migration has become a pressing issue in recent years. Every year, thousands of migrants lose their lives or go missing on perilous routes, often fallen victim to smugglers and traffickers.  

Mr. Guterres welcomed the overwhelming global support for the pact, saying that for people on the move, “voluntary or forced; and whether or not they have been able to obtain formal authorization for movement, all human beings must have their human rights respected and their dignity upheld.”

The adoption of the pact, now known as Marrakech Compact, coincides with the 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document which is central to the pact. Mr. Guterres said “it would be ironic if, on the day we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we would consider that migrants are to be excluded from the scope of the Declaration.”

 

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A safer, more dignified journey for all migrants, tops agenda at global conference in Marrakech

Top politicians and officials from across the world will gather in Marrakech, Morocco this weekend, ahead of a major conference convened by the UN, to formally adopt an all-inclusive, extensive global agreement aimed at making migration safer, and more dignified for all.

The text of the agreement, formally known as the Global Compact For Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, was agreed by Member States under the auspices of the UN General Assembly last July, and hailed by Secretary-General António Guterres as “a significant achievement.”

The non-binding Global Compact is grounded in values of State sovereignty, responsibility-sharing, non-discrimination, and human rights. It recognizes that a cooperative approach is needed to optimize the overall benefits of migration, while also mitigating its risks and challenges for individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination. 

The UN chief said, in a statement, the Global Compact “also recognizes that every individual has the right to safety, dignity and protection.”

With more than 68 million forcibly on the move today, migrants and refugees have made headlines across the globe in recent years; from the refugee crisis in Europe, to the migrant caravans hailing from Central America and heading to the southern borders of the United States.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the two-day Marrakech Intergovernmental Conference beginning on Monday:

 

Regular migrants, irregular migrants, and refugees...What’s the difference?

The Conference in Marrakech will focus on migration. And regular migration, as the Special Representative for International Migration Ms. Louise Arbour puts it, “refers to people who enter or stay in a country in which they are not a national through legal channels, and whose position in that country is obviously known to the government and in conformity with all the laws and regulations.” Regular migrants represent the “overwhelming majority of people who cross borders,” Ms. Arbour added in a recent interview with UN News.

While irregular migration “is the situation of people who are in a country, but whose status is not in conformity with national requirements”, the vast majority of them, explains the senior UN migration official, have actually entered the country legally, perhaps with a tourist or a student visa, and then extended their stay: “They can be regularized, or if not, they need to be returned to their country of origin,” she said.

Refugees, on the other hand according to the UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR), is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. They have “a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group”.

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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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UN supporting efforts to resolve protestors’ concerns

Port of Spain  14 November 2018 - A group of refugees and asylum-seekers has protested outside the UN House in Port of Spain for the past week. The group has been in contact with UN personnel, notably with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. The concerns of this group have been registered carefully and UNHCR is working to help with their immediate needs and to provide practical information on how best to convey their circumstances to the appropriate authorities in Trinidad and Tobago.

The United Nations as a matter of principle respects the rights of all people to peaceful protest. Similarly, refugees and asylum-seekers are required like all people to abide by the laws of the country that hosts them and to refrain from any action that could put at risk the safety of UN personnel or their ability to perform their duties.

The UN Refugee Agency helps coordinate and support the work of national governments which bear primary responsibility for providing durable and dignified responses to refugees. UNHCR will continue to support the government of Trinidad and Tobago in its efforts to address the needs of refugees in ways that are efficient, humane and achievable. The UN remains concerned for very vulnerable people and will continue to work to ensure their rights and responsibilities are fulfilled in Trinidad and Tobago.

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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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2,300 migrant children in Central American ‘caravan’ need protection, UNICEF says

As some 7,000 mostly-Honduran migrants continue their journey northwards toward the United States, governments must prioritize the needs of migrant children when it comes to applying immigration laws and procedures, said the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday.

Highlighting the vulnerability of children on the move, the agency advised all transit and destination countries, to consider alternatives to immigration detention.

According to the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), thousands of men, women, and children, including unaccompanied children, are still making their way through Mexico toward the southern border of the US.

Their journey is arduous, especially when opting for irregular migration routes. The dangers of inclement weather, including soaring temperatures and lack of shelter are high, especially for children, say UN agencies.

Some have already fallen ill or are suffering from dehydration, said UNICEF, while the danger of extortion by criminal smuggling gangs, or threats of robbery and sexual violence are also present; perils from which many are already fleeing.

‘When I saw our house burning…it was time to flee’ Eduardo, 16

Eduardo, a sixteen-year-old from Honduras, told UNHCR that the gang violence in his hometown of Colon had become so intense, he felt he had no other option but to leave the country.

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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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Nearly three million more displaced year-on-year, warns refugee agency chief, but solutions are within reach

The number of people forced to flee their homes last year rose by nearly three million to 68.5 million, the head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday, warning that the world’s displacement hotspots “are becoming hotter”.

Citing ongoing, protracted violence around the globe and a lack of solutions to conflicts as reasons for the increase, Filippo Grandi said that “continuous pressure on civilians” caught up in fighting, had pushed them to leave their homes.

More than two thirds of all refugees worldwide originated from only a handful of countries, the High Commissioner told journalists in Geneva.

Top of the list is Syria, where seven years of brutal fighting have forced more than 6 million people to seek shelter abroad, followed by Afghanistan (2.6 million) and South Sudan (2.4 million).

Responding to a question about ongoing concerns over 1.5 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring host countries, including Lebanon, the High Commissioner stressed that “it’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’” they will return to Syria — once conditions allow.

New disputes in 2017 were also significant contributors to global displacement.

These include the exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh last year, the UNHCR chief said, adding that it is still not safe for them to return, as well as 1.5 million Venezuelans who had sought shelter in neighbouring countries in Latin America.

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Feature photos

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