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EU, IOM, UNHCR to support peaceful integration of refugees and migrants across Latin American, Caribbean communities affected by Covid-19

The European Union (EU), UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are joining forces to promote integration and peaceful coexistence among refugees, migrants and vulnerable host communities in a new initiative being launched in 11 countries throughout Central, South America and the Caribbean.

The joint initiative will assist communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic by providing greater access to social protection services and support to lessen the pandemic’s socioeconomic impact and enhance efforts for long-term recovery.

The interventions also aim to strengthen the national health response by improving the access and inclusion of refugees and migrants in national health responses, while enhancing social cohesion with host communities through positive interaction and improved sensitization on COVID-19.

“This joint initiative will benefit vulnerable populations, governments and civil society organizations across the regions by enhancing direct health services and capacity development, social cohesion and coordination,” said Alejandro Guidi, IOM’s Senior Regional Advisor for the Americas. “The projects will be closely coordinated with local and national governments to capitalize on synergies with other initiatives led by government and international organizations.”

“COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable refugees and migrants across the region, and its host communities,” said Jose Samaniego, UNHCR Regional Director for the Americas. “This partnership arrives at a moment when strong and coordinated efforts are crucial to ensure that refugees and migrants are given the chance to support societies to heal and become stronger.”

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Latin America and the Caribbean have been hard hit by COVID-19 and the region faces a severe economic downturn. While each country faces distinct challenges, there is an overall need to support governments in their COVID-19 responses in order to ensure these populations are not left behind. Risk of severe economic instability and insecurity is high because of the pandemic’s wide-ranging effects on a region characterized by poverty, violence and limited institutional capacity.

The situation is particularly difficult in large cities and remote, inaccessible areas, often along the borders where health facilities are scarce. Often, these areas welcome a higher concentration of refugees, migrants, and indigenous populations, who were already facing vulnerabilities prior to the pandemic.

COVID-19 has also tested the economic resilience of the region. Remittances are projected to decline sharply, significantly impacting countries dependent on them. While countries in the region have significant informal labor markets, confinement measures have made it difficult for the most vulnerable to earn an income, leading to increased poverty and the risk of widespread hunger, evictions, and rising social tensions and conflicts due to increased competition for livelihoods and public services.

According to governments and data gathered by the Inter-Agency Coordination Platform (R4V), there are approximately 4.6 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants across the region. In addition, over 900,000 people from Central America have been forced to leave their homes fleeing joblessness, poverty, threats and extorsion; over 400,000 of them remain in the subregion.

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These initiatives, funded by the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), will cover an integrated and multi-sector response to various vulnerable groups, including refugees, migrants, indigenous populations, and receiving communities, in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, as well as regional-level activities and coordination efforts.

UNHCR and IOM will ensure synergies are built under these actions funded by IcSP with other EU partners targeting vulnerable populations in the region, such as the Directorate-General for the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO).

About the European Union

The European Union is taking comprehensive and decisive action to tackle the coronavirus pandemic not only on the domestic front, but also on the global scale, working jointly with its partner countries worldwide to manage the impact of the crisis. As a global actor and major contributor to the international aid system, the European Union also provides crucial aid to partner countries in the Americas to address the impact of the pandemic on livelihoods, stability and security. Through the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), the support of the European Union is intended to prevent that COVID-19 fuels further sources of conflict, promoting peaceful coexistence and integration of refugees, migrants in their host communities in a coordinated approach with host countries, UN agencies and CSOs. The response of the European Union follows a ‘Team Europe’ approach, combining resources from the European Union, its Member States and financial institutions.

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About the International Organization for Migration (IOM)

The International Organization for Migration is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by providing services and advice to governments and migrants and other mobile populations. IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration challenges and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants, refugees, displaced persons and host communities.

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UNHCR and IOM shocked and dismayed by deaths near Belarus-Poland border

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and are deeply saddened by the deaths of four individuals near the border between Poland and Belarus. The organizations express their condolences to the families of the deceased and are calling for an immediate investigation into this tragedy. The nationalities of the all the victims have yet to be confirmed but two Iraqi nationals reportedly died of hypothermia.

In recent months, groups of asylum-seekers and migrants have been transiting through Belarus, to seek asylum in neighbouring EU Member States – Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

The two agencies have been following with growing concern, reports of pushbacks of people at these borders. Groups of people have become stranded for weeks, unable to access any form of assistance, asylum or basic services. Many were left in dire situations, exposed to the elements, suffering from hypothermia. Some were rescued from swamps.

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Recognizing the significant challenges posed by irregular movements, the agencies have called for the situation to be managed in accordance with international legal obligations, and for States to work collaboratively to resolve the situation, prioritising human rights.

UNHCR and IOM call for immediate access to those affected, in order to provide lifesaving medical help, food, water and shelter, especially in light of the approaching winter.

While States have the sovereign right to manage their borders, this is not incompatible with the respect for human rights including the right to seek asylum. Pushbacks endanger lives and are illegal under international law.

UNHCR and IOM have been engaging with relevant authorities to explore various options for the people who continue to be stranded at borders; from access to asylum, family reunification procedures, and voluntary return for those found not to be in need of international protection.

IOM and UNHCR reiterate that asylum-seekers and migrants should never be used by States to achieve political ends. The fundamental responsibility to protect vulnerable people should be shared among States in a spirit of solidarity. Political disagreement on responsibilities must never result in the loss of life, forfeiting States international obligations and commitments.

READ  Greece freezes asylum applications from illegally entering migrants

 

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UNHCR calls on Libya to urgently develop plan for asylum seekers and refugees, welcomes authorization to restart evacuation

Libya. UNHCR provides assistance to asylum-seekers caught in crackdown

A refugee feeds her baby while waiting to receive assistance at an emergency distribution by UNHCR and partners in Tripoli, Libya.  © UNHCR/Mohamed Alalem

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today urged the Libyan government to immediately address the dire situation of asylumseekers and refugees in a humane and rights-based manner. Raids and arbitrary arrests by the authorities this month targeted areas largely  populated by refugees and asylumseekers that resulted in several deaths, thousands detained, and many homeless and destitute.

“Since the start of the security raids and arrests by the Libyan authorities in October, we have witnessed a sharp deterioration in the situation facing vulnerable asylumseekers and refugees in Tripoli,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Western and Central Mediterranean Situation. “The Libyan authorities must come up with a proper plan that respects their rights and identifies durable solutions.”

Some 3,000 people are currently sheltering outside the Community Day Centre (CDC) in Tripoli, where UNHCR and its partners have been providing medical assistance and other services. Their situation is very precarious. Many were affected by the raids, demolition of their homes, and have escaped from detention in terrible conditions. Others have joined the group hoping to be evacuated.

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“Many have been left homeless and lost all their belongings as a result of the security operation and are now sleeping in the cold and in a very unsafe environment. This is utterly unacceptable,” said Cochetel.

UNHCR and partners had to suspend operations at the Community Day Centre for security and safety reasons, but remain engaged in an active dialogue with representatives of the protesters outside the CDC to explain the limited assistance it can offer, including cash and food assistance.

Together with other UN agencies, UNHCR stands ready to support an urgent plan of action that could help alleviate the terrible suffering of asylumseekers and refugees in Libya. 

UNHCR continues to call on the authorities to respect the human rights and dignity of asylumseekers and refugees, stop their arbitrary arrest and release them from detention. 

The UN Refugee Agency has welcomed authorization to restart humanitarian evacuation flights, but warns that it is not enough. 

“This is a positive development for some of the most vulnerable refugees, who have been waiting anxiously for many months to depart. Our teams are already working to ensure humanitarian flights can restart as soon as possible,” said Cochetel “But we also need to be realistic: resettlement or evacuation flights will only benefit a limited number of people.”    

More than 1,000 vulnerable refugees and asylumseekers are currently prioritised for humanitarian flights and awaiting their resumption. UNHCR continues to urge the international community to offer more legal pathways to safety outside Libya.

READ  38 people including children feared dead as vessel carrying fleeing civilians sinks 

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Free movement of people a top priority, say West African nations

Aligned migration policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons, says the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Photo: Fredrick Ejiga/IOM

Abuja – Free movement of people and goods, and fighting human trafficking should be top policy priorities, members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed at talks convened with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Network for Migration and the African Union.

Three days of consultations in Abuja this week offered the first chance for ECOWAS members to collectively assess progress in implementing the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) objectives and to decide key recommendations to be put to next year’s International Migration Review Forum.

Integrated migration governance should be a key goal and Ambrose Dery, Minister of Interior for Ghana, the Chair of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Governments, said it was essential African nations addressed trafficking in persons and its devastating consequences on migrants.

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“Vile stories on international media concerning migrant slavery, as well as mistreatment of young African domestic helps in some Gulf States, call for a reflection on appropriate actions to be taken with a view to finding a lasting solution to this persistent problem that leads to the loss of young Africans, without whom the continent cannot build a prosperous and peaceful future,” Dery said. “In Ghana, the contribution of migrants has played a great role in shaping our national development.”

Governments must address the root causes of trafficking and ensure the free movement of people in a safe, orderly and dignified manner. ECOWAS representatives emphasized the need to join forces and align approaches to prevent and counter smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons to promote rights-based management of migration.

The meeting, which ended Thursday, also heard that policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons.

Aissata Kane, IOM’s Senior Regional Adviser for Sub Saharan Africa, said the Global Compact for Migration was a landmark, multilateral document. “It aims to catalyze and boost combined support and assistance for addressing legal and humanitarian challenges of migration and foster its positive social, cultural and economic dividends within and outside the ECOWAS region.”

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IOM has been working with all stakeholders at intergovernmental and national levels, as well as within the UN Network for Migration, to promote safe, orderly and dignified free movement of people and economic exchange among ECOWAS Member States.

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