Regional Safe Spaces Network: cross-border protection
The project in brief
UNHCR / Regional Safe Spaces Network (RSSN)
The development started in December 2016, the implementation in March 2017.
The project is still ongoing. The project could continue expanding and integrating the project in the Americas and beyond. This would include geographical, but also thematic and activity related expansion, while enhancing the process of formalization of the Network’s procedures.
The project is a regional inter-agency protection coordination mechanism to reach most vulnerable people and ensure they access to specialized protection, cross-border case management and multi-sectoral services in mixed movements.
The objective of the project is to reduce risks and improve access to protection for population affected by rapid and fluid human mobility trends. One of its main goals is to increase identification of people with international protection needs, survivors of SGBV, children at risk, victims of trafficking and other people with specific needs and ensure their access to protection, cross-border case management and multi-sectoral services along the migration route and the displacement cycle. As such, the project focuses in the North of America and Venezuela situations.
The project was financially supported by the Division of International Protection of UNHCR, and most particularly the SGBV Unit during the development and roll-out phases. IRC Surge and ICMC resources were also available as well. At present, members of the Network have integrated the project within their own budget plans.
The project builds upon existing assistance networks along the migration routes to offer coordination and protection tools to enhance protection and increase the quality of services provided to refugees and other people of concern in along the displacement cycle, including origin, transit, destination and return.
The legal and policy framework in the Americas facilitates human mobility and offers instruments for protection advocacy in refugee and migration contexts.
For instance, the Advisory Opinion OC-21/14, "Rights and Guarantees of Children in the Context of Migration and/or in Need of International Protection" or ADVISORY OPINION OC-25/18 OF 30 MAY 2018 REQUESTED BY THE REPUBLIC OF ECUADOR, Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACrtHR), 30 May 2018, available at: https://www.refworld.org/cases,IACRTHR,5c87ec454.html
Government protection actors, UN agencies, NGOs, Civil society, Community-organizations, Faith-based organizations working on protection, asylum and migration.
Some key members and allies are listed below:
- SENAME (Regional Direction)
- WVI Proyecto Esperanza sin Fronteras Chile
- Bethany Global
- Casa Municipal de la Mujer
- Centro de Migraciones de la Mision Scalabriniana
- Comité Internacional de Rescate (IRC)
- Consejo Noruego Para Refugiados (NRC)
- Consultorio Jurídico Simón Bolivar
- Corporación de Profesionales para el Desarrollo integral Comunitario (Corprondico)
- Defensoría del Pueblo Arauca
- Fundación Orientame
- Hospital del Sarare San Ricardo Pampuri
- Hospital San Vicente de Arauca
- Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF)
- Instituto Departamental de Salud (IDS)
- Personería Municipal (Arauca, Arauquita, Saravena)
- Red de Mujeres Vida y Rostro de Paz
- Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados (SJR) - Cucuta y Arauca
- Defensoría del Pueblo Regional Cucuta
- Cenderos San Jose
- Consultorio Jurídico Universidad La Salle
- Fundación Mujer
- HIAS (Costa Rica, Ecuador)
- Instituto Nacional de la Mujer
- DINAF Honduras
- MIMP Peru
- RET Costa Rica
- Aldeas SOS
- Sin Fronteras
- Asociación Solidaridad y Acción (ASA)
- Casa de acogida Manos Unidas tejiendo progreso
- Consejo Noruego Para Refugiados (NRC) Ecuador
- Federación de Mujeres de Sucumbios (Casa Amiga) Lago Agrio
- Fundación Alas de Colibri
- Fundación Casa de Refugio Matilde
- Fundación Ecuatoriana Equidad
- Fundación Tarabita
- UNICEF Venezuela
- Dialogo Diverso (LGBTI organization) Ecuador
- Lazos de Amistad. Venezuela
- Human Rights Department, Berkeley University, California
More information can be consulted on https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=ae15aa2fe0c4469b83ea10f0925e8625
Challenges and how they were overcome
- Highly vulnerable people moving rapidly across countries and in all directions.
- Minimal information on services available across countries.
- Difficulties to reach out survivors of SGBV, children at risk, LGBTI people and others with specific needs along the displacement cycle.
- Increased risk of violence & exploitation affecting disproportionally women, girls, boys, LGBTI people and people with disabilities.
- Public institutions and services overwhelmed.
- Emergency services, case management and referrals not sufficiently sophisticated (Family Tracing and Reunification, Alternative Care, Clinical Management of Rape, etc.).
- Survivor-centred, Age, Gender, Diversity approach and Best Interests principle are not always known by some actors.
- Limited information management systems.
- Limited coordination of protection across borders.
How they were overcome
Members of the Network strengthened coordination and expanded its activities and geographical coverage with a phased approach to enhance the use of resources and standardize protection across countries. The three pilot countries (Guatemala, Mexico and Costa Rica), provided the platform for this expansion and the inclusion of new members working in different areas.
The Network consolidated good practices and tools developed and used by the members into a Regional Safe Spaces Network Toolkit that included an interactive online service and referral map. The toolkit was published in English and Spanish in different webpages, including refworld, acnur.org and other pages covering the Americas region. Later on the Network developed its own webpage (www.rssn.org) to facilitate communication among service providers and community members working along the migration route and displacement cycle from the United States to Chile.
In addition, bi-national and regional workshops and webinars were organized to promote exchange of practices, build trust and facilitate referrals. Network members developed SOP for cross- border referrals at bi-national and regional levels and implemented awareness campaigns with communities, government and local actors on protection and available services along the route.
Step by step, and always with a phased approach, the Network expanded in different ways along the route, and as of 2019 more than 110 actors engaged in this cross-border initiative. This included government actors, UN agencies, civil society, community organizations, and faith-based organizations. The diversity of its actors working with different population groups (children, women, survivors of SGBV, LGBTI people, indigenous, etc.) impacted positively the protection spaces, mitigating challenges, increasing information and access to services through a better used of resources and responsibility sharing.
Results of the Good Practice
- Refugees were identified amid regular mixed movements flows and then referred to safe protection services along the routes.
- Most vulnerable people such as survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, children at risk, victims of trafficking and LGBTI received specialized protection support and multi-sectoral services across countries, creating also a community network around safe spaces.
- Over 30000 women, girls, men, boys and LGBTI people were directly impacted and received services. This included family reunification, health care, legal aid, psychological support, safe shelter, livelihoods, best interest procedures for children.
- Refugee and host communities were empowered through their direct participation as members in the network, engaging in awareness raising, identification and referrals and being part of a broader network in 14 different countries.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
- Ease the pressures on host countries: The Network complemented the efforts of governments providing support to most vulnerable populations affected by increasing displacement, easing the pressure on public services. The Network was also a tool for strengthening cross-border coordination on refugees and mixed movements related matters, fostering cooperation in the management of individual cases beyond documentation or legal related matters. Likewise, government institutions became active members and allies of the network and could trust partners working in different countries to ensure the continuum of protection for refugees and people moving in different directions. The Network promoted the activation of protection referral pathways for refugees and vulnerable people based on protection needs and overcoming legal barriers (e.g. survivors of SGBV that occurred in the territory of a different country). Meanwhile, capacity building and direct technical support was provided to the national institutions involved in protection related matters.
- Enhance refugee self-reliance: the project supported the inclusion of refugees, host communities and other persons of concern in the development and implementation of the initiative, including through access to funds (youth initiative fund) for the development of their own programmes. Emergency services addressed immediate needs, which was a means for refugees to overcome different barriers and access services and self-reliance opportunities. In addition, the Network promoted development of refugee and host community networks to foster social integration and access to livelihoods opportunities.
- Expand access to third-country solutions: the project had a strong focus on cross-border case management, referrals and transfers, building a network of service providers and national institutions to support and continuum of protection across countries. The Regional Safe Spaces Network toolkit and online maps provides specific templates and referral systems for cross-border case management. The collaboration facilitated safe re-locations but also integration and re-integration of refugees and other persons concern in different countries in the region.
- Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity: the project focuses on building trust to create safe spaces for protection of refugees and other persons of concern in all stages of the displacement cycle, including origin, transit, destination and return. The network developed safe spaces standards (e.g. Safe Spaces self-audit check list and safety audit tool) to promote safety and dignity in reception and service provision centers. The Network also developed specific tools for identification of serious protection risks such as trafficking or SGBV (e.g. Disclosing SGBV in Forced Displacement tool). Likewise, cross-border collaboration among members of the Network facilitated the identification of possible risks of refoulment, allowing members to advocate and put in place prevention and response measures. In countries such as Honduras or Colombia, Network members received returnees, assessing their needs and ensuring they access to specialized protection support and a essential package of services.
Furthermore, the Network has developed a Regional Inter-Agency Community-based Complaint referral mechanisms prevent and respond to possible instances of sexual exploitation and abuse and receive feedback and complaints from refugees and other persons of concern across borders.
The project will continue to develop tools and expand along the Americas region and beyond, while integrating and coordinating with other coordination structures in the region. The project will be linked to formal governmental programmes and processes such as the development of a regional standards for the protection of children in the context of the Venezuelan situation.
Ana Belén Anguita Arjona, Senior CBP Officer and Mixed Movements Focal Point, MENA Regional Bureau, UNHCR