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.”
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.
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.
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.
About UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights, and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people. UNHCR works to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence, persecution, war, or disaster at home. UNHCR helps to save lives and build better futures for millions forced from home.
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