The EU addresses this problem through its Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace and supports vulnerable people – particularly women and children – who are generally more prone to be exploited.
Since March 2020, the EU has put in place a project to support the Venezuelan refugees and migrants who have fled to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Its primary aim is to improve the protection and integration environment for Venezuelan refugees, migrants and vulnerable population and to support host communities, including (potential) victims of gender-based violence, human trafficking and smuggling, or sexual and labour exploitation. At the same time, combatting sexual violence became one of the actions supported by the project as this became one of the concerns faced in particular by women and children. So far, over 18 000 persons benefitted of psychosocial counselling and support in accessing local protection systems and safe spaces. 17 spaces of protection and guidance in the three countries have also been supported. Other accompanying measures include:
- In Colombia, support is being provided to three networks working on the prevention of human rights violations, human trafficking and smuggling of refugees and migrants as well as the protection of victims. These address concrete cases of gender-based violence among refugees, migrants and the local population and refers cases of victims to the corresponding governmental entities.
- In Ecuador local protection and care networks for refugees and migrants from Venezuela and other countries have been promoted through project partners. A comprehensive care centre was created, catering both for victims of violence and vulnerable people.
- In Peru, a Commission against Human Trafficking and Smuggling was set-up along with a network providing information and support to migrants and refugees, including on cases of sexual violence.
Promoting a more stable and less violent environment for asylum seekers and refugees in Northern Mexico
Northern Mexico, along the border with the United States, became a region gathering many refugees and asylum seekers who have fled from conflict-affected areas or lack of security in the neighbouring countries – such as Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela or Nicaragua – in search for a better life. With overwhelmed capacities of local authorities to address emerging challenges, many persons in vulnerable situations, particularly women, LGBTI and children, were re-exposed to the risks of sexual assaults, kidnapping, forced disappearance or torture.
To strengthen the local capacity for reception of refugees and improving access to shelters, the EU is funding a project implemented by UNHCR in the region. Amongst other activities, it provides trainings to local authorities on protection principles, psychological first aid and basic psychological support. Trainings include how to identify persons with specific and international protection needs, how to respond to those needs, including referral pathways to legal providers, and the design of protocols for sexual gender-based violence or Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA). These also focus on providing gender-sensitive reception in the shelters.
Additionally, the project focuses on providing timely, equitable and effective protection response for persons with specific needs, particularly sexual gender-based violence victims, through mapping of available services, capacity building, case management and referrals, so that they can confidentially report incidents and have timely and non-discriminatory access to services and support, including medical, psychosocial, legal and material assistance, as well as safe spaces where needed.
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