The last two years of the pandemic have been devastating. Border closures increased the departure of people from countries where they suffer persecution, intolerance or human rights violations. In fact, just considering Venezuela, there are already 6 million human beings who left their home in search of a safer place to restart their lives.
The risks have been dramatic. During the journey, many of them faced conditions that put their lives in check, such as extreme climates, complex geographies, in addition to human trafficking and trafficking criminal networks. In addition, the increase in xenophobia is added as an unfortunate consequence of this situation.
This scenario has challenged us to strengthen international cooperation and intensify our capacity to respond to this crisis, because poverty and inequality have increased in the region, affecting the most vulnerable people, such as refugees. Thousands of them continue to rely on humanitarian aid to eat and sleep, while access to education and health are a privilege for many families.
That is why fostering effective local integration becomes one of the biggest challenges to offer long-term solutions that guarantee health, education, housing, among other essential services for refugee and migrant people.
The world is living in complex times and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the displacement generated by the armed conflict is an unfortunate example that justifies the existence of agencies such as UNHCR to protect people. In addition to this situation that marked the beginning of 2022, in Latin America we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic and the largest exodus in the history of our region.
For our Southern Cone region, and especially for our Regional Office covering Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay, obstacles to access to territory and refugee status determination procedures were of great concern in 2021. In this regard, UNHCR advocated to the governments to maintain entry exceptions for people in need of protection, in addition to resuming asylum procedures and implementing alternative options for refugee and migrant people to virtually register their applications or adopt remote interview modalities, among other exceptions.We also work in coordination with civil society, government human rights institutions and public defenders to ensure access in specific cases identified by the office. We made strategic progress with specialized partners who have identified cases, provided support and intervened with the authorities in order to guarantee access to territory and refugee status determination procedures.
Since 2020, thanks to the impact of UNHCR, Uruguay has maintained entry exceptions to authorize access to the territory of people in need of international protection and guaranteed access to the determination of refugee status, RSD procedure, which it does not happened in the other countries. In addition, UNHCR supported the Permanent Secretariat of the National Refugee Commission (CORE) in the development of an abbreviated procedure to analyse and resolve the asylum applications of Venezuelans, which was approved and implemented. The CORE recognized 189 Venezuelan nationals during 2021.
Following UNHCR’s advocacy and proposals, Argentina adopted a protocol for conducting remote refugee status determination interviews.In the case of Paraguay, it continued to apply a prima facie approach to Venezuelans and other nationalities, recognising 2,148 Venezuelans and 653 Cubans during 2021.And in Chile, thanks to the support of our donors and the excellent coordination work with our partners, important advances were made that you will know in the next pages.Thus, we can proudly say that the Southern Cone reached great achievements.
In 2021, together, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, supported more than 15,000 people with health consultations; more than 12,000 with non-food items; 5,000 people with shelter and temporary accommodation; and more than 13,500 with cash assistance. More than 21,500 people were able to obtain counselling and 28,000 were provided with legal assistance. And a particularly relevant fact for our operation: we support more than 200 victims of the scourge of gender violence. Numbers are important because they give a true dimension to the work in the territory, although even more important are the people behind the numbers.
But we still have a big task ahead of us. The emergency is not over and the work, especially with the host communities, is more necessary than ever. To meet all these needs, we must continue to work as a team. That is why I invite and motivate all the actors of society so that we do not lower our arms. The world is giving us a great lesson and responding with a gesture of humanity and solidarity is the great door to continue saving lives.PROLOGUE / JUAN CARLOS MURILLOUNHCR /HUMAN MOBILITY IN CHILE