Brazil and the Southern Cone: The ICRC warns of the impact of violence and migration in new report
Brasilia (ICRC) – In its 2021 Humanitarian Report, the regional delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay warns of the impact of armed violence and migration in the region. It notes that both are complex issues with numerous, far-reaching consequences that go beyond pure statistics.
"Supporting migrants is an important part of our work across the region and will continue to be so in the coming years," says Alexandre Formisano, head of the ICRC's regional delegation. "Our aim is to help migrants stay in contact with their loved ones, to protect the family unit. Being with or keeping in touch with family while migrating or in the midst of armed violence is so important for people's resilience and capacity to face adversity."
The ICRC works closely with National Red Cross Societies in this endeavour, including by running connectivity-related services to enable migrants to make calls, access the internet and use battery-charging points. While the organization neither encourages nor discourages migration, it recognizes the vulnerability of those who take this step, and their need for shelter and support. The ICRC notes with concern cases of xenophobia in northern Brazil and northern Chile.
"It's not easy being far away from family, but everything in life calls for some kind of sacrifice – that's why we're here," says William Guaiquirima, a Venezuelan migrant in Roraima, northern Brazil. "I don't have a phone, so I come here to use the [connectivity] service to speak with my family – to see how they are and let them know I'm okay." For people like William, having access to a phone line is the difference between maintaining and losing contact with family back home.
Another of the ICRC's priorities in the Southern Cone and Brazil region is promoting international humanitarian and human rights law. The agreement signed by Argentina and the United Kingdom in March 2021 concerning the exhumation and identification of soldiers buried on the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) is one example of the organization's humanitarian diplomacy in action. The agreement has initiated the second phase of what is known as the Humanitarian Project Plan. In 2021, the ICRC identified the remains of six Argentine soldiers buried on the islands, enabling their families finally to grieve after decades of uncertainty. A total of 119 people have been identified during this process.
"Families who have waited 39 years for their loved ones to come home, holding out hope that they will return, will now have somewhere to lay flowers and say a prayer," says Gabriel Valladares, one of the ICRC's representatives in Argentina. "For now, we've sent photos of the graves in Darwin Cemetery to families, but we will make arrangements for them to visit in person at some point in the future."
The ICRC also delivered human rights training to over 900 police and surveillance officers in the region and implemented a series of activities to raise awareness of international humanitarian law. In addition, the organization supported 11 countries to work together to develop technical guidelines for more humane prison management and infrastructure in Latin America.
The ICRC warns of the less visible impacts of violence in Brazil
Through various programmes, the ICRC offers coordinated and cross-cutting support to the Brazilian population and government to deal with the humanitarian consequences of armed violence. It cooperates with other organizations, offering recommendations and advice, with a view to achieving more, reaching more people and ensuring the sustainability of its actions.
"Armed violence continues to be a serious problem in certain parts of Brazil," says Alexandre Formisano, head of the ICRC's regional delegation. "While the data has fluctuated in recent years, numbers have remained high, and clashes, fighting and upheaval have continued to severely affect the lives of the general population. As well as homicide and injury, there are many less visible consequences, such as internal displacement, disappearances, poor mental health and difficulties in accessing essential public services, including health care and schooling."
The 2021 Humanitarian Report highlights that communities affected by armed violence continue to live with the daily threat of interruption to essential public services, alongside a high risk of contracting COVID-19. In light of this, in 2021 the ICRC worked hard to reach more communities and ensure that they benefited from our Safer Access programme, which aims to prevent and mitigate the impact of violence on essential services. Already in place in six Brazilian cities, this programme has now also been rolled out in São Paulo. The ICRC has continued to deliver Safer Access training and to work with its partners to integrate this training into public policy. In addition, an online training course has been developed for use in 2022.
Training was delivered in 152 public health, education and social assistance facilities in the cities of Vila Velha (Espírito Santo), Fortaleza (Ceará) and Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul), which altogether directly benefit over 42,000 people. In the first half of 2021, the adoption and use of the Safer Access methodology helped to reduce the closure of health-care facilities in Duque de Caxias (Rio de Janeiro) and Fortaleza (Ceará) by 26%, in comparison with 2020.
Facts and figures
- Over 150,000 opportunities provided for migrants to contact their families.
- Improvements made to infrastructure at shelters and other facilities in northern Brazil to ensure access to safe and secure environments for around 7,000 migrants and local residents.
- More than 130,000 visits to the Safer Access platform logged, where situations of risk are recorded over the course of the year.
- Over 1,000 professionals trained in safer access and safer behaviours.
- Training delivered in 152 public health, education and social assistance facilities in the cities of Vila Velha (Espírito Santo), Fortaleza (Ceará) and Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul), which altogether directly benefit 42,477 people.
- Closure of health-care facilities in Duque en Caxias (Rio de Janeiro) and Fortaleza (Ceará) reduced by 26% during the first half of 2021, through the adoption and use of the Safer Access methodology.
- A new city – São Paulo – joined the Safer Access programme, bringing the total number of participating cities in Brazil to seven.
- Cool boxes for vaccine storage, hygiene items and personal protective equipment donated to five Brazilian cities participating in the Safer Access programme, in cooperation with the Brazilian Red Cross: Duque de Caxias (Rio de Janeiro), Florianópolis (Santa Catarina), Fortaleza (Ceará), Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul) and Vila Velha (Espírito Santo). Donations included 83,500 disposable three-ply masks, 112,800 surgical gloves and 12,300 litres of 70% alcohol hand sanitizer.
- Interviews held with 350 people deprived of their liberty in Ceará, to determine their detention conditions and treatment, and establish the needs of at-risk groups in prison.
- Support given to 11 countries working together to develop technical guidance on more humane prison management and infrastructure in Latin America.
- The remains of six Argentine soldiers buried on the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) successfully identified, providing closure for their families after 39 years of uncertainty.
- Over 900 police and surveillance officers given human rights training.