In the first three months of 2021, Latin American and Caribbean countries began to implement their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns. R4V partners worked to ensure the inclusion of refugees and migrants from Venezuela in national vaccination plans, whose roll-out in many countries occurred simultaneously with the second wave of COVID- 19 bringing renewed movement restrictions and border closures. Based on the principle that vaccination for all is a shared public health concern (“nobody is safe until everyone is safe”) R4V platforms called on host governments to ensure refugees’ and migrants’ access to COVID-19 vaccines, irrespective of their nationality and legal status, in line with the priority groups identified by national and local health authorities. R4V partners also offered logistical, technical and material support in implementing vaccine efforts in multiple countries (details in country sections that follow). Meanwhile, March marked one year of border closures throughout much of the region due to COVID-19. In the early months of 2021, increased military presences along some borders and a lack of regular pathways for movement resulted in increased protection risks for refugees and migrants, including human trafficking and smuggling, denial of access to territory, returns and deportations. The situation led the Ombudsperson’s offices in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia to release a joint statement calling on their governments to adopt more humanitarian approaches, while the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released a statement expressing concern over the growing militarization of borders and urging states to adopt migration and border management policies that ensure respect for human rights and access to protection.
Despite these dynamics, multiple countries also continued or expanded documentation and regularization initiatives for Venezuelans, including Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Trinidad & Tobago, and the Dominican Republic (details below). Finally, on 8 March R4V partners across the region engaged in events to mark International Women’s Day.