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Colombia: Keeping Venezuelan migrant families together

Published on 15.03.2024

Venezuela has been experiencing one of the biggest displacement crises in recent years. More than 7.7 million Venezuelans have fled the country, including 2.9 million (36.6% of whom are children) to Colombia. Despite recent positive developments (integration of Venezuelan migrants living in Colombia, normalisation of relations between the two countries), the government’s support is still inadequate. Those who do not have the means to start the regularisation process still face major humanitarian needs and integration difficulties. Migrants are among the most vulnerable groups, with little access to basic services. Unaccompanied minors, especially girls, are also exposed to major protection risks. The protection of migrants is crucial, especially for women and children.

Lack of access to education

Migrant and refugee children have little access to formal education and safe daytime activities, with only 48% attending school. Adults have difficulty accessing decent jobs, and women face high unemployment rates. In addition, 82% of households live in inadequate housing and 51% eat less than twice a day. In some regions, situations of armed conflict have terrible consequences, including forced displacement, community confinement and human rights violations.

In SOS care centres, activities are organised with migrant children to enable them to create emotional bonds with their care-givers.

Helping Venezuelan refugees

Since 2021, our association has been working with SOS Children’s Villages in Colombia to help Venezuelan refugees. From April 2022 to February 2023, it supported a project focusing on unaccompanied children affected by the Venezuelan migration crisis, particularly in Maicao (on the Venezuelan border) and Ipialès (on the Ecuadorian border). Then, from April to December, it financed a support project for migrant minors that focused on preventing the loss of parental care directly in migrant families at risk. In the end, around a hundred children and teenagers, separated from their families or at risk of being separated from their families, received support and around forty families were strengthened.

Protection of unaccompanied minors in the Nariño region

This project has two objectives. On the one hand, isolated migrant children already in care were reunited with their families thanks to individualised case management in the Nariño region. 54 children and adolescents and their families received support, and 28 children and adolescents were reunited with their families. Some of them had been forced into the worst forms of child labour, some were living on the streets, not getting enough to eat and were victims of violence. In addition, they faced numerous obstacles in accessing their rights and to services, including regularisation and obtaining documents granting migratory status. Thanks to SOS Children’s Villages in Colombia, collaboration with the authorities has been established, enabling a more effective and rapid response. Public officials have also been strengthened to better support migrant children in the protection system.

Strengthening migrant families in La Guajira

On the other hand, migrant families who are at high risk of losing parental care, have been helped to continue living together through the implementation of a family protection service. In the region of La Guajira, 40 families and their children have benefited from this service, which has made it possible to meet basic needs (food, water, hygiene, etc.) as well as offering psychosocial support, recreational and protective activities and external health services. Parents’ skills have been strengthened to better protect, care for and respect children’s rights, strengthen emotional ties and promote good day-to-day practices at all levels. 65 children and teenagers have had access to non-formal education activities, psychosocial support and protection activities. Some activities encouraged healthy lifestyles by increasing knowledge about food, health and nutrition. 66% said that these activities strengthened their families, and 76% of children and adolescents said that they felt safe and protected in their homes.

Photos: © SOS Villages d’Enfants en Colombie

Find out more about our work for migrant children in Colombia between 2021 and 2024:

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