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In the first phase of the project partnerships were strengthened with various protection organizations for children and adolescents. (Jesuit Refugee Service Venezuela)

(Bogota) October 11, 2012 — Last month the Jesuit Refugee Service Latin America & Caribbean regional 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 done previously by JRS in the border towns of 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 neighboring countries as refugees.

According to figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (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% 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, resulting in full violation of human rights. In Colombia, displacements continue 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 organizations.  

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 make known the situation in which the victims of the conflict live, facilitate their integration into host communities, and prevent violence.

A Look Back

The first phase of the project took place from 2010-2011. During this time, refugees and displaced persons (RDP) learned about their rights, as well as ways in which they could demand that those rights be enforced.   

In total 2574 RDP were identified, treated and supported in five border towns. 1,856 people (62% women) received emergency humanitarian assistance, and legal and psychosocial care. More than 1,235 people (52% women), including both community leaders and RDP, participated in 95 capacity-building trainings 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 Organization for Migration, and providing access to education, health, micro-credit, legal counseling, and follow up each case,” says Ingrid Bournat, a psychologist in charge of the JRS team in Tachira, Venezuela.

With regard to work with public entities, JRS provided information about the status of refugees and displaced people to focus action, and ensure that it is based on an analysis of priorities. JRS also provided some training sessions for public servants and offered technical assistance with the design and implementation of policies, plans and programs 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 accompanied population was the driver of the development of all activities. Their willingness, support (many offered their homes to provide services and trainings), and guidance on new or unforeseen situations, catalyzed the formulation of new proposals or changes in existing interventions.

The ultimate goal is for these people to improve their living conditions, be empowered, and actively participate in the defense of their rights.

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