JRS has two areas of focus in this region: the Colombian civil war and the plight of the Haitian people. Serving Colombian IDPs as well as refugees in three neighbouring countries, JRS is present not in camps but mostly in border areas and in city suburbs, where people displaced by violence in rural areas live in exclusion. The work among the Haitian people takes place on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in Santo Domingo, and, since 2010, in camps of earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince.
JRS has been present in Latin America since the early 80s, long before it started to reach out to people displaced by these two humanitarian crises. The JRS commitment in this region developed in 1982 among Salvadoran refugees in Honduras, and, in 1984, in El Salvador itself. JRS stayed in this country for nearly 10 years before handing over to the local Jesuit Development Service. Another important intervention was among Guatemalan refugees in Mexico, from 1991 to 1997.
Attention began to shift to present-day concerns in the early 90s. Present in Colombia from 1994 onwards, JRS serves in places badly affected by the violence: Soacha, a suburb of Bogota; Magdalena Medio; Valle del Cauca and, since 2010, North Santander. Apart from the civil conflict, a growing challenge in Colombia is increased displacement due to the development of mega-projects and mining corporations, which are uprooting communities from their ancestral lands. The emphasis of JRS in Colombia is to build communities where people can live in peace and dignity. Diverse activities include livelihood programmes, counselling, human rights training, and awareness-raising.
In neighbouring Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador, JRS supports Colombian refugees, offering a range of services that includes legal and psychosocial support, educational and livelihood programmes, and aid to meet basic needs, where needed. There is an emphasis on local integration, working with host communities to welcome the refugees.
The mission among the Haitian people dates back to the early 90s and deals with different albeit pressing displacement issues. The defence of Haitian migrants, who live a precarious and right-less existence in the Dominican Republic, has long been the focal point of JRS intervention. Before the 2010 Haiti quake, it was estimated that there were between 500,000 to 800,000 Haitians in the Dominican Republic. JRS intervenes through a national project entitled Solidaridad Fronteriza (Border Solidarity), and is also part of a network lobbying for the right to citizenship for Haitians born in the Dominican Republic.
The earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January 2010 led to a new dimension of JRS work. JRS initially delivered emergency aid and, in March 2010, opened an office in Port-au-Prince and focused its intervention of pastoral and psychosocial accompaniment in seven camps of quake survivors located in three sectors of Port-au-Prince.
Latin America and the Caribbean
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Colombia: increased displacement in Valle del Cauca in 2012, but government response ineffective
Bogota, 2 May 2013 – Significant increases in conflict between paramilitary, guerrilla and government forces have left more than 5,200 people displaced last year in Buenaventura, a district in southeastern region of Valle del Cauca. Despite increased forced displacement, the state has failed to guarantee assistance to the victims of violence in the region, according to a report by the Jesuit Refugee Service, Buenaventura: An Unanswered Humanitarian Crisis.
Colombia: stop! End the recruitment and use of children in war
Bogota, 11 February 2013 – The Jesuit Refugee Service in Colombia launched this year's activities marking 12 February, Red Hand Day, to express their rejection of the recruitment and use of children and adolescents in war and armed conflict.
Haiti: prioritising human rights for the displaced
Bogotá, Rome, Washington DC, Port-au-Prince, 14 January 2013 – Three years after the 12-January earthquake that struck Haiti, approximately 400,000 displaced people continue to live in vulnerable situations and without protection in camps in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and the surrounding areas. The Jesuit Refugee Service expresses great concern, because the rights and appropriate guarantees for protection of displaced persons, as defined in the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, continue to be ignored.
Haiti: exacerbation of humanitarian crisis following Hurricane Sandy
Bogotá, 9 November 2012 – The social impact of natural disasters in Haiti accumulate in a spiral of growing environmental vulnerability and worsening humanitarian crisis in the country.
Dominican Republic: police crackdown on peaceful demonstrators
Santo Domingo, 14 August 2012 – Police in Monte Plata, a local council in the south of the Dominican Republic, yesterday cracked down on a group of young protestors peacefully demonstrating for their right to identity documents, the vote and participation in the society of birth.
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