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Venezuelans brave torrential border river, face exploitation, abuse – UN urges greater protection

“UNICEF is encouraged by Governments’ efforts to jointly seek regional solutions to the challenges posed by largescale migration that are in line with international standards and national laws, such as the protocol adopted by Ecuador to protect uprooted children,” said María Cristina Perceval, UNICEF’s Regional LAC Director.

However, she added, as the crisis inside Venezuela continues, migrants increase, and essential protection, healthcare and education services in host and transit countries, are suffering additional strain.

Amid spiraling hyperinflation, shortages of basic goods, political turmoil, violence and persecution, almost 3.4 million Venezuelans have left the country to seek safety or a better life abroad, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

A downward spiraling situation

While more than 250,000 Venezuelans filed asylum claims last year, mostly in Latin America, many remain in an irregular situation, lacking guarantees to basic rights and exposed to exploitation and abuse.

Meanwhile, uprooted children and families face challenges in regularizing their immigration status, which can impact an array of services, as well as early childhood development.

Moreover, host countries lacking clear migration policies, put children at higher risk of discrimination, family separation, xenophobia and violence – with unaccompanied and separated children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and indigenous people at even greater risk.

“Human rights standards call for States to allow children entry and registration as a precondition for carrying out initial protection assessment procedures,” stressed Ms. Perceval. “Even when they are unaccompanied and without official documentation, they should be immediately directed to specialized personnel, who can assess their protection needs”.

In addition to providing States with valuable planning and budget information, UNICEF called registering children on the move “the first step in guaranteeing their rights”.  The agency has appealed for $69.5 million to meet the needs of migrants across the LAC region.

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