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R4V Flash Update: COVID-19 Update, 29 May 2020

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On 26 May 2020, the International Donors Conference in solidarity with Venezuelan refugees and migrants took place in a virtual format. The conference, that was convened by the European Union (EU) and Spain, with the support of Canada, Norway, UNHCR and IOM, aimed to mobilize support for refugees and migrants from Venezuela displaced in Latin America and the Caribbean, including in the context of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the event, multiple donors committed to an overall total of USD 2.79 billion, including USD 653 million in grants, for the Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) and for host countries in the region. Ahead of this event, R4V partners and Sectors presented the needs of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in different fora to donors and stakeholders.

The ongoing return movements of thousands of Venezuelan refugees and migrants to their home country remains of great concern to R4V partners. As not all refugees and migrant benefit from national social protection, health and welfare programs adopted by affected countries, and as many are without the means to make ends meet, the desperation of refugees and migrants has led many to consider returning to Venezuela. With movement restrictions still in place across the region, irregular movements of refugees and migrants risk amplifying the spread of COVID-19, while exposing them to potential abuse and exploitation throughout their journey.

Platforms’ Response

In Brazil, R4V partners are supporting refugees and migrants willing to apply for the emergency allowance from the Federal Government. This week, R4V partners also established new temporary shelters in Boa Vista. This is part of a strategy to support the relocation of vulnerable families from spontaneous occupations to shelters. In addition, the Area of Protection and Care received an additional batch of medicines to provide the best possible treatment for COVID-19 patients.

R4V partners in Chile are advocating at all levels in favor of inclusion of refugees and migrants with an irregular status, as they are currently not eligible for government emergency assistance programs. R4V partners are proposing four main interventions: review the situation of children, adolescents and their families who entered requesting asylum; adopt urgent and transitory measures for the regularization of refugees and migrants; endorse measures to grant access to emergency state aid for children and adolescents in irregular situations; and the establishment of an online mechanism for the recognition of refugee status.

In Colombia, the Grupo Interagencial para Flujos Migratorios Mixtos (GIFMM) is updating its guidance for sector activities during COVID-19. The GIFMM is working on a strategy to monitor, prevent and mitigate effects of evictions impacting refugees and migrants, including a toolbox to support the work in the field. In addition, the GIFMM is monitoring the situation of those returning from Colombia to Venezuela. R4V partners are supporting authorities in delivering food, primary health care and shelter among other interventions.

The Grupo de Trabajo para Refugiados y Migrantes (GTRM) in Ecuador finalized a Rapid Joint Needs Assessment on the situation of refugees, migrants and host communities during COVID-19. The document wasshared with partners and donors together with an updated catalogue of products that are regularly produced by the GTRM. The lifting of some of the COVID19 related movement restrictions in some major cities in Ecuador (Quito and Guayaquil) is expected to take place in the next few days. It is anticipated that as a result of the lifting of these measures, refugees and migrants will gradually be able to take up crucial livelihoods activities again and that the work of R4V actors in Ecuador can be expanded.

In Peru, the GTRM is responding to the increase of violence against women and children through a series of tailored training to develop the capacity of government and humanitarian actors. These workshops focus on expanding the knowhow needed to assist vulnerable populations remotely through hotlines, on protection of sexual exploitation and abuse, on psychosocial support to reduce the impact of trauma and gender-based violence amid the emergency, and on addressing human trafficking and smuggling.

The Sub-Regional Platform and its partners in the Caribbean are providing cash, NFI food and shelter to refugees and migrants from Venezuela. The Platform is supporting communication campaigns, videos, and other strategies to mitigate xenophobia and cultural barriers within host communities. The Platform is also supporting trainings and projects that can facilitate livelihoods activities.

In Central America and Mexico, partners of the sub-region continue to support refugees and migrants from Venezuela during the pandemic. In Costa Rica, R4V partners are supporting refugees and migrants with training to facilitate their employment as many have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 related lockdown. In Panama, R4V partners are providing information to refugees and migrants on measures adopted by the authorities during COVID-19 and are supporting national public health campaigns promoted throughout the country.

In the Southern Cone, R4V partners in the sub-region continue with the provision of shelter solutions, NFIs, food and cash assistance to refugees and migrants from Venezuela in border areas and main cities. Partners in Bolivia are monitoring the situation at the border and advising Venezuelans about risks associated with return journeys under the current circumstances.

Partners in Argentina are working with the government to strengthen the prevention and control of COVID-19 at borders and to support public health systems. In Paraguay, partners have provided shelter support to Venezuelan families who were at risk of being evicted as they were unable to pay rent due to the economic consequences of the pandemic.