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Some 300,000 Venezuelan children in Colombia need humanitarian assistance; UNICEF looks to boost response funding

Without increased support, the health, education and well-being of at least 327,000 children from Venezuela living as migrants and refugees in Colombia will be in jeopardy, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Monday.

“At a time when anti-migrant sentiment is growing worldwide, Colombia has generously kept its doors open to its neighbors from Venezuela,” said Paloma Escudero, UNICEF Director of Communication who has just finished a four-day visit to Cúcuta, on the Colombian side of the border with Venezuela.

The economic and political situation in Venezuela has caused an estimated 3.7 million Venezuelans to leave their homes for Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and other countries in the region.

Some 1.2 million of them are in Colombia, often living in vulnerable host communities with already overstretched resources, said UNICEF.

“As more families make the painful decision to leave their homes in Venezuela every day, it is time for the international community to step up its support and help meet their basic needs,We cannot let that generosity wear thin.”

Paloma Escudero
UNICEF Director of Communications

At the Simon Bolivar Bridge between Colombia and Venezuela, Ms. Escudero spoke to families making the trek every day to seek medical care, take their children to school, and bring food and other essential items to their families back home.

“I met a mother who has epilepsy and is eight months pregnant. She needed to come to Colombia to get her prenatal checkups and protect her health and the health of her baby,” she said. “For most families, the decision to leave is only a measure of last resort.”

Colombia also offers free education to migrant children from Venezuela. UNICEF says that more than 130,000 Venezuelan children are enrolled in schools across Colombia today, up from 30,000 in November last year. Nearly 10,000 of these students are in the border town of Cúcuta and close to 3,000 of them commute from Venezuela every day to go to school.

“I saw hundreds of students cross into Cúcuta at the crack of dawn, in pouring rain, to go to school. Such dedication to learning by parents and students alike is a lesson in commitment, perseverance and determination for all of us,” Ms. Escudero said.

UNICEF is working closely with other humanitarian agencies, national and local authorities, non-governmental organizations and communities in Colombia to provide migrant children, as well as children in host communities with health, nutrition, education and protection.

The agency is looking to boost its current response budget from $5.7 million to $29 million in the coming year to:

  • Help vaccinate more than 30,000 children;
  • Provide water, sanitation and hygiene services in schools for 13,000 children;
  • Provide 40,000 children with formal and informal learning opportunities;
  • Reach 15,000 nursing mothers with micronutrients; and
  • Reach 90,000 children and adolescents with actions to prevent and address violence, abuse and exploitation, including gender-based violence and the prevention of child recruitment.

this story was orginally posted on UN News.

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Youth, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees boost hope for human rights: Guterres

People’s rights are under fire “in many parts of the globe,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the Human Rights Council on Monday 25 February 2019, before insisting that he was not “losing hope”, thanks to the progress made by powerful grassroots movements for social justice.

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Addressing the Geneva-based forum on the opening day of its 40th session, Mr. Guterres underlined the Council’s key role as the “epicentre” for dialogue and cooperation on all human rights issues: civil, political, economic, social and cultural.

Beyond its doors, other key voices were also demanding their rights and making their voices heard, he said, particularly “youth, indigenous people, migrants and refugees”.

Milestones have been reached in recent years, that are key to human rights, the UN chief maintained. “One billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty in just a generation,” he said. “More than two billion people have gained access to improved sanitation. And more than 2.5 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water resources. The mortality rate for children under five has declined by almost 60 per cent.”

Despite this, the UN chief insisted that ongoing gender inequality remains a major modern-day challenge: “Untold women and girls still face insecurity, violence and other violations of their rights every day,” he insisted, while glass ceilings “abound”.

“It will take two centuries to close the gap in economic empowerment,” he continued. “I do not accept a world that tells my granddaughters that economic equality can wait for their granddaughter’s granddaughters. I know you agree. Our world cannot wait.”

Human rights ‘is DNA of UN’s founding Charter’

In his 15-minute address, Mr. Guterres touched on his own experience living under the dictatorship of António Salazar, the authoritarian ruler of Portugal who oppressed both his fellow citizens at home and the people of the then-Portuguese colonies in Africa. 

“It was the human rights struggles and successes of others around the world that moved us to believe in change and to make that change happen,” Mr. Guterres said of Portugal’s struggle to rid itself of the Salazar regime. “Human rights inspire and drive progress. And that truth is the animating spirit of this Council. It is the DNA of our Organization’s founding Charter. And it is vital to addressing the ills of our world.”

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‘Clear threats’ must be addressed: General Assembly President

The Secretary-General’s concern about conflict and instability around the globe was echoed by the President of the UN General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa, in her address.

“Political crises, wars, transnational organized crime, social exclusion and lack of access to justice, constitute clear threats that demand adequate answers from this Council and from the entire international system for the protection of human rights,” she said.

In common with the UN chief, Ms. Espinosa expressed concern about the widening gap between the planet’s haves and have-nots.

“Perhaps one of the most sensitive challenges for the human rights agenda is inequality,” she said. “The concentration of wealth has increased to such an extent that, in 2018, 26 individuals had more money than the 3,800 million poorest people on the planet.”

[ read the full story on UN News ]

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Venezuelan refugees now number 3.4 million; humanitarian implications massive, UN warns

As the number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela continues to rise – hitting the 3.4 million mark this month – United Nations agencies sounded the alarm on Friday over the humanitarian needs these women, children and men face, and the strain this represents for communities hosting them.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the UN migration agency (IOM) issued statements based on data from national immigration authorities and other sources, showing that, on average, in 2018, 5,000 people left Venezuela every day in search of protection or a better life. The vast majority of them – 2.7 million – are hosted in countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Currently, Colombia hosts the highest number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, with over 1.1 million. It is followed by Peru, with 506,000, Chile 288,000, Ecuador 221,000, Argentina 130,000, and Brazil 96,000. Mexico and other countries in Central America and the Caribbean are also hosting significant numbers of refugees and migrants from Venezuela.

“The countries of the region have shown tremendous solidarity with refugees and migrants from Venezuela, and implemented resourceful solutions to help them,”

“But these figures underscore the strain on host communities and the continued need for support from the international community, at a time when the world’s attention is on political developments inside Venezuela,” 

Eduardo Stein" title="joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants

 To date, Latin American countries have granted about 1.3 million residence permits and other forms of regular status to Venezuelans. Asylum systems have also been reinforced in order to process an unprecedented number of applications. Since 2014, over 390,000 asylum claims have been lodged by Venezuelans – close to 60 per cent (232,000) happened in 2018 alone.

[ full story on UN News ]

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Solidarity needed to overcome ‘isolated’ attacks on Venezuela refugees, migrants

Attacks and hate speech against Venezuelans seeking shelter in neighbouring countries should be condemned “with a clear and forceful message of rejection” and solidarity, a top UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and UN migration agency (IOM) official said in a statement on Monday.

Eduardo Stein, Joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, made his comments after the UN Security Council met at the weekend to discuss the situation in the country, where opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself President on 23 January.

“Although isolated and unrepresentative, these acts of hatred, intolerance and xenophobia are extremely worrying,” Mr. Stein said, in his appeal to “several” unnamed countries.

“Racism, misogyny and xenophobia have no place in our countries and must be firmly condemned,” the UNHCR/IOM official added, his statement following a warning in November that the reception capacity of Venezuela’s neighbours was becoming severely strained.

While urging “political and opinion leaders” to call for “peace, justice, calm and restraint”, Mr. Stein also highlighted the importance of responsible traditional and online media reporting.

“The media and users of social networks…must report the facts in a responsible manner, without inciting xenophobic attitudes and actions and must also condemn all physical or verbal attacks against refugees, migrants and other foreign persons, when they occur,” said Mr. Stein, a former Guatemalan Vice-President.

According to UNHCR and IOM, thousands of people continue to leave Venezuela every day, amid an ongoing humanitarian crisis linked to an economy in freefall and continuing political upheaval.

More than three million Venezuelans have left their country since 2015, with 2.4 million in neighbouring or nearby countries. Most are in Colombia, which houses well over one million who have fled their homes.

This is followed by Peru (more than 500,000) Ecuador (more than 220,000), Argentina (130,000) Chile (more than 100,000) and Brazil (85,000).

In addition to South American countries, countries in Central America and the Caribbean also recorded increasing arrivals of refugees and migrants from Venezuela. Panama, for example, hosts at least 94,000 Venezuelans.

 

[ read the full story on UN News ]

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From child refugee in Mozambique to school principal in the United States

Growing up in Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Bertine Bahige was studying hard to become a doctor. At 13, he had his life figured out. Or so he thought.

Everything changed the day the Mai Mai rebel group stormed into his town in eastern DRC, going door to door to abduct new recruits.

“It was the hardest thing,” Bertine recalls with a broken voice. “Looking in your parents’ eyes and knowing that you’re about to be completely separated from everything you have ever known in your whole life.”

Bertine spent two years in captivity. He was horrified by how children were terrorizing each other. “You had to be ruthless to advance in the ranks,” Bertine recalls. “That is not who I am.” He could not stand the violence and decided to escape. “I knew this could be it, but I had to take my chance,” he says.

“I had been given a chance to live a new life and I wanted to get the best out of it.”

His flight took him thousands of kilometres away, crossing lake Tanganyika on a fisherman’s boat who kindly allowed him to board for free and hiding in the back of a truck full of dry salted fish. For three days, that was all Bertine ate. “It was my first gourmet meal in a long time,” Bertine says with his unbeatable optimism.

Exhausted and about to faint, Bertine collapsed by a tree. When he woke up, around him were people speaking a language he could not understand. He did not even know in what country he was. It turned out to be Mozambique. Bertine spent five years in Maputo refugee camp, managed by the UN Refugee Agency.

 

video : He knew little English when he arrived in the US. Now, he's a school principal in Wyoming

 

[ read the full story on UNHCR website ]

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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

LACmap venemigrants

 


 

 

caribbeanmovements

 


caribfinanceneeded

 


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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