On World Refugee Day, Civil Society demands greater protection for refugee children in Latin America, during COVID-19


World Refugee Day is commemorated on June 20, remembering that every minute, 24 people in the world
World Refugee Day
World Refugee Day, remembering that every minute, 24 people in the world[1]including children, adolescents and their families, flee their homes for fear of persecution, loss of life, liberty or security due to war, violence, massive violation of their human rights, or because of their race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, political opinions or membership in a particular social group.

The measures taken by the States of the region in response to the control of the COVID-19 pandemic have left thousands of migrant and refugee children and adolescents, as well as their families, invisible, generating an increase in the poverty and inequality to which they were already exposed and deepening the violence and persecution against them.

The risks and dangers they face during their search for survival are innumerable: they face the adversity imposed by geography and climate, in addition to serious limitations to their mobility and access to their human rights, discrimination, xenophobia, violence and organized crime, situations that threaten their lives, dignity, safety, integrity and physical, sexual, psychological and emotional health.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the conditions of vulnerability of children and adolescents in contexts of human mobility have worsened. Not only do they encounter closed borders that lead to greater precariousness in their migratory process, but also administrative processes for access to international protection that are suspended or with little capacity to respond; as well as the considerable increase in risk to their physical health: due to contagion and development of COVID-19, malnutrition or insalubrity, without access to timely medical attention; and finally, with limited or no participation in social programs to support the pandemic or the possibility of accessing livelihoods.

In the case of refugee children and adolescents, protection by the States must be guaranteed in a comprehensive manner through the National Systems for the Protection of Children, ensuring the necessary urgent and special assistance and protection; As well as procedures for the restitution of rights from the granting of international protection, with the purpose of providing each refugee child with the possibility of accessing rights such as identity, health, education, a life free of violence, personal integrity, family life, among others, until they achieve dignified living conditions that allow them to reach their maximum development in a holistic manner.

Finally, there are important challenges in our region aimed at eradicating xenophobic and discriminatory practices and behaviors against migrants and refugees.

Despite efforts to seek protection and access to rights for all children, especially those in contexts of human mobility, there is still much work to be done for our communities to recognize the value of all people and their ownership of human rights, to be exercised and respected without discrimination, especially in the context of COVID-19, in which they suffer a double discrimination, not only for being foreigners, but also by the false belief of being carriers of a disease of which they are victims like everyone else.

In view of the foregoing, the undersigned civil society organizations especially recommend to the States of the region:

  • To recognize all persons as holders of human rights, regardless of their nationality, ethnic origin, race, sexual orientation or preference, political opinion, socioeconomic status or any other personal characteristic.
  • Ensure access to international protection for child and adolescent refugee claimants and their families, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Recognize that, regardless of where they are or the emergency situation prevailing in the States, the rights of children and adolescents travel with them.
  • Provide all necessary support so that children and adolescents enjoy the greatest possible protection, since they are generally more vulnerable to sexual violence, exploitation and mistreatment. Likewise, they must be provided with sanitary protection, taking all biosecurity measures throughout their migratory process.
  • To support the integration processes of migrant and refugee children and adolescents and their families, who seek a better life opportunity and wish to contribute their culture, knowledge and positive experiences with those around them.
  • During the pandemic, ensure access to education for migrant and refugee children and adolescents, who are doubly affected by their difficult access and the vulnerability imposed by their migratory status.
  • Contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination, stigmatization or xenophobia, which only lead to the division of society and increase the inequality gap, with special emphasis in the context of the pandemic, so as not to promote the stigmatization of foreigners that point to them as the cause of the spread of the virus.
  • Promote awareness campaigns with the resident population of communities of transit or resettlement of refugees to reduce or eliminate their perspective of discrimination and xenophobia.

We reiterate our commitment as civil society to the response to the crisis of mixed migratory flows in the region, human rights and humanitarian principles, making available our support, experience and knowledge to work together for the welfare and integrity of the people most affected by the crisis. We are confident that we can continue to support each other from an equitable and transparent structure.

[1] https://www.un.org/es/observances/refugee-day

Partner Organizations of Save the Children’s Civil Society Support Program in Latin America and the Caribbean