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Latin America: adversity on the Colombia-Venezuela border
12 October 2012

According to the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement, the actual number of people who have been internally displaced by the Colombian conflict since the mid-1980s surpasses five million. In addition, more than 600,000 people have crossed the border into neighbouring countries as refugees. (JRS Venezuela)
In total 2,574 refugees and displaced persons were identified, treated and supported in five towns.
Bogota, 12 October 2012 – Last month the Jesuit Refugee Service Latin America and Caribbean office began the project, Prevention of violence and restoration of rights of displaced persons and refugees on the Colombian-Venezuelan border; the project is supported by the Alboan Foundation and the Basque government of Spain.

This project aims to continue the work undertaken previously by JRS in Barrancabermeja, San Pablo and Cucuta, in Colombia, and Ureña and El Nula, in Venezuela. In these areas, JRS provides comprehensive accompaniment and support, from a bi-national perspective, to thousands of displaced or refugee women, men, boys, girls and adolescents.

According to the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), the actual number of people who have been internally displaced by the Colombian conflict since the mid-1980s surpasses five million. In addition, more than 600,000 people have crossed the border into neighbouring countries as refugees.

According to figures from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), 54,965 refugees, mostly from Colombia, live in Ecuador. In Panama, there are 15,000 people in need of international protection. In Brazil, the number has grown by 300 percent in the last two years, and in Venezuela, there are more than 200,000 people in need of international protection.

In Venezuela, one of the protection gaps is the denial of refugee status or difficulty accessing the determination process. In Colombia, displacement continues and people are not able to access durable solutions that would allow them to live in dignity. This project aims to strengthen the capacity of these people to advocate for and exercise their human rights before the relevant authorities, supported by strong grassroots organisations.  

Another problem present in the region is the risk of children and young people becoming involved in different manifestations of the armed conflict, which often results in them dropping out of school and in the loss of family structure. Having identified this problem, the project will also be implemented through community education.

In addition, there will be regional research and advocacy activities that, combined with awareness-raising, communication and education activities, will raise awareness of  the daily hardship facing victims of conflict, facilitate their integration into host communities, and prevent violence.

A look back. The first phase of the project took place from 2010 until 2011. During this time, refugees and displaced persons learned about their rights, as well as ways in which they could demand their enforcement.

In total 2,574 refugees and displaced persons were identified, treated and supported in five towns. 1,856 people (62 percent women) received emergency humanitarian assistance, legal counselling and psychosocial care. More than 1,235 people (52 percent women), including both community leaders and RDP, participated in 95 capacity-building workshops and coordination meetings to strengthen protection mechanisms, promote their rights and support the local integration processes.

"Our support to families was integrated and comprehensive in order to ensure sustainability in Venezuela. This comprehensive support goes all the way from an initial interview, to granting a provisional document, locating and providing housing with the help of the International Organisation for Migration, and providing access to education, health, micro-credit, legal counselling, and follow up each case", said Ingrid Bournat, a psychologist in charge of the JRS team in Tachira, Venezuela.

JRS provided information to public entities regarding the status of refugees and other displaced persons to focus their assistance, helping to ensure it is based on identified priorities. JRS also provided training and technical assistance for public servants on the design and implementation of policies, plans and programmes for victims of forced migration.

The results of this first intervention allow JRS to track protection gaps and the available capacity to act in humanitarian situations on the border. Additionally, JRS conducted 75 actions to inform public opinion about the various issues affecting refugees and displaced people.  

At all times, the refugee population was the driver of the development of all activities. Their willingness, support (many offered their homes to provide services and workshops), and guidance on new or unforeseen situations, catalysed the formulation of new proposals or changes in existing interventions.

The objective is to empower refugees to defend their rights and ultimately improve their own standard of living.

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User reflections
Animo a todos los que trabajan en el JRS por la labor que están realizando. Gracias a gente como ellos a lo mejor algún día conseguimos "un mundo mejor"
Montse Romera - Jesuit Refugee Service International Office - November 04, 2012
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