Network of Academic institutions ramp up support for refugees in Latin America
The Charter of Santiago was drafted in October 2019 by the Latin American Academic Network on the Law and Integration of Refugees (Red Académica Latinoamericana sobre Derecho e Integración de las Personas Refugiada), as a commitment to implementing pledges in furtherance of the Global Compact on Refugees.
The pledges made in this Charter were developed under the four following support areas:
- Address the immediate needs of persons of concern;
- Conduct and disseminate comprehensive and multidisciplinary studies on situations of forced displacement in the Americas;
- Strengthen national capacities in international protection and access to the rights of persons of concern to provide adequate responses;
- Facilitate the admission of persons of concern to higher education in the host countries.
From the signing of the Charter until the 30th of November 2020, the Network has implemented a diversity of measures through their different partner institutions across Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Spain. The COVID-19 pandemic has hindered the implementation of certain activities across the region, and others have had to be adapted in line with measures taken to contain the virus. The situation in Venezuela has also meant that some institutions have had to develop new strategies to support displaced Venezuelans in their localities. Some examples of activities carried out by the Network are presented below.
In addressing the immediate needs of persons of concern, academic institutions carried out a range of activities, including the provision of free language classes, legal assistance and training, litigation, and other direct support to persons of concern. The Cooperative University of Colombia, in partnership with other organisations and institutions, carried out strategic litigation before the Colombian Constitutional Court, to address statelessness and the risk of statelessness of persons born in Colombia to Venezuelan parents. In Chile, the spread of the pandemic led to the Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes offering remote support through the “MigrApp” mobile phone app, to support families in particularly vulnerable situations.
The network of academics also conducted and disseminated comprehensive and multidisciplinary studies on situations of forced displacement in the Americas through the creation and continuation of research groups and multiple publications. In Mexico, members of the Research Group on Human Rights, Migration, and Human Mobility of the University of La Salle published three books during this period of time, including “The Migration Phenomenon in Mexico” (El fenómeno migratorio en México).
To strengthen national capacities in international protection and access to the rights of persons of concern to provide adequate responses, the focus was put on policy work with local authorities, training of public officials, expanding university courses, and leading relevant events such as online seminars. In Brazil, the Rede de Advocacy Colaborativo petitioned the Director General of the Migration Department of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security regarding the access to rights of non-nationals on Brazilian territory. The Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University in Peru, in partnership with UNHCR, developed a course on “Strategies of integration of refugees in host communities” to expand the conceptual, theoretical, and procedural protections for displaced persons at the community, local, and regional governmental levels.
In order to facilitate the admission of persons of concern to higher education in the host countries, universities rolled out financial support and quotas for refugees into their courses, and other support mechanisms to assist persons of concern in accessing and integrating higher education. To address the lack of coordinated support for this vulnerable population's access to higher education, the University of Costa Rica is developing concrete projects to support them. The University of Huelva in Spain is providing three free online Spanish courses and three scholarships for an Official Masters degree.
A full report of the activities carried out by the Network can be found here (in Spanish).