Authorities from South American countries together with UNHCR, IOM, UNICEF and the IPPDH addressed challenges for the protection of Venezuelan migrant and refugee children.

Buenos Aires .- During a High Level Technical Meeting on 27 and 28 March in the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), together with the MERCOSUR Institute for Public Policy and Human Rights (IPPDH), convened institutional representatives from South American countries host to Venezuelan refugees and migrants to exchange experiences about the challenges and opportunities in protecting Venezuelan children and adolescents.

With the presence of technical representatives from national asylum, child welfare, and immigration institutions from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, the objective of this gathering was to identify challenges and opportunities and to outline technical suggestions to be considered by existing regional coordination spaces such as MERCOSUR, the Quito Process, and the South American Conference on Migrations (CSM), among others.

The technical representatives discussed the different approaches and strategies of their national institutions in responding to the protection needs of refugee and migrant children, and they also analysed the possibilities of creating spaces for training, coordination and advocacy to establish a coordinated response that takes into account the specific needs of children with different and diverse characteristics and profiles for the effective protection of their rights.

In addition, good child protection practices and experiences from within and outside the region were presented, and a dialogue was held on challenges and opportunities and on the regional impact of this phenomenon with the aim of elaborating proposals and collaboration agreements among the participating institutions.

With a number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants amounting to 3.4 million worldwide, according to figures from the Regional Platform for Interagency Coordination for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela, children and adolescents are among the groups most affected by this situation, facing serious protection risks such as family separation, limitations on access to asylum, lack of migratory regularization, labour and sexual exploitation, human trafficking, forced recruitment, limitations on access to birth registration and basic services such as health or education.