Support Spaces Interagency Mission Report: Colombia, Ecuador and Peru
Refugees and migrants face a range of protection risks, which is exacerbated for people on the move, particularly for groups considered to be in a vulnerable situation like children, women, LGBTI, people with serious medical conditions or indigenous people, among others. Service providers and Venezuelans themselves reported that there are some border areas controlled by armed groups and gangs, risks of child recruitment, trafficking in persons, and narco-trafficking. People who do not possess documentation (i.e. passports, identity cards, travel authorization), including children, often resort to entering countries through informal crossings, resulting in increased risks. People traveling on foot (commonly known as the “caminantes”) and by bus also recounted being at risk or have experienced theft, extortion and sexual harassment and abuse along the way, mainly through their transit in Colombia.
Other protection issues include family separation (both voluntary and involuntary), child labour, survival sex amongst women and girls (including getting married with nationals of the country of asylum/residence to cover basic needs), increased begging, people living on the streets, and lack of documentation which leads to increased risks of exploitation, abuse, detention, among many others.
Unaccompanied children, mainly boys fifteen years and above, have been identified in main crossing points. However, follow up on these individual cases is made difficult by the lack of timely and adequate responses. Situations of labour exploitation of young men have also been reported. The refugee and migrant population include a visible, but indeterminate, number of young pregnant women and mothers (including teenage girls). Women and girls involved in survival sex needs further attention, especially since stereotypes in host communities of Venezuelan women consider them easier and more attractive options for exploitation. Increased xenophobic and discrimination sentiments towards Venezuelans, including complaints from local restaurants and shops, local authorities, employers, land owners, increase tensions with the host communities, representing in challenged access to rights, services and increased protection risks.