Argentina Multi-Country Office
The UNHCR multi-country office for Southern Latin America based in Buenos Aires covers operations in Argentina, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. UNHCR's activities in Peru were covered under the Regional Office for Latin America until the end of 2018.
Operation: Argentina Multi-Country Office
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|2020 Year-End Results|
|24,798||people of concern to UNHCR received assistance and psychosocial support|
|16,942||refugees and migrants received legal aid|
|4,364||households received cash or voucher assistance to meet their basic needs|
|3,994||individuals received shelter support|
|2,193||refugees and migrants provided with guidance on labour market opportunities|
|74||people supported with family reunification|
|2021 planning figures|
|40,000||individuals will receive cash and/or in-kind (non-food items kits, hygiene kits, winterization etc.) assistance to cover their basic needs|
|35,000||people of concern will benefit from interventions designed to foster, promote and support socioeconomic and financial inclusion, entrepreneurship, as well as access to the labour market|
|32,400||people of concern will benefit from protection services such as legal assistance, psychosocial support, information and referrals to specialized services|
|30||strategic cooperation agreements will be expanded through the Cities of Solidarities programme, together with Chamber of Commerce, line ministries and the private sector to improve protection services and in line with the Office’s durable solutions strategy 2020-2023|
People of Concern
Argentina Multi-Country Office
Operational contextAs the pandemic hit the Southern Cone, the operational setup changed requiring adaptation to remote delivery of assistance. With borders closed and public life at a standstill due to strict lockdown measures, the pandemic highly affected access to territory and management of asylum and regularization procedures.
Emergency measures adopted by governments to deal with the unprecedented situation, such as emergency cash grants, often excluded people of concern to UNHCR, many of whom could not comply with administrative requirements.
While access to health was largely assured for people of concern, most refugees and migrants experienced a dramatic worsening of their socio-economic situation. As lockdowns were decreed, their income-generating activities, generally in the informal sector, were restricted or affected by layoffs from employers.
With borders closed most of the year, UNHCR assisted individuals to reunite with their families and those stranded between borders. With the continuation of mobility restrictions and deteriorating economies, xenophobia against refugees and migrants spiked in social media and the press.
Population trendsAs of mid-2020, people of concern in the Southern Cone amounted to over 694,000 people, out of whom 29,630 were asylum-seekers and 9,548 refugees. Of the total, over 660,000 are refugees and migrants from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Border closures declared by authorities in March to contain the pandemic heavily impacted displacement patterns.
Despite only a 0.7% increase in the population of concern, the asylum system struggled to respond, accumulated new pending cases, and there were long delays in decisions.
- As part of efforts to respond to the humanitarian consequences of the pandemic, operations in the sub-region assisted 119,967 people from March to December 2020. UNHCR also complemented aid provided by the UN system and supported the national health system.
- UNHCR reinforced capacities in strategic border locations with increased presence, training of stakeholders, and delivery of assistance. Interventions were aimed at advocating exceptional regular entries for family reunification, access to asylum, prevention of pushbacks and ensuring access to basic rights and services.
- Enhanced capacity to respond to protection concerns and queries through dedicated staff, a hotline and email accounts to immediately deliver orientation and coordinate interventions with partners.
- Outreach was increased thanks to the “Help” platform and MigrApp in Chile. Grassroot organizations of refugees and migrants were also involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of protection and solutions initiatives.
- Strengthened cooperation with local governments and the private sector in Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia allowed for scale up of support for socio-economic recovery projects, which helped 2,652 people. Despite the pandemic, UNHCR's work under the “Cities of Solidarities” initiative support of local authorities with local integration continued, and six new cities joined the network in 2020.
- The population assisted benefitted from enhanced protection from exploitation and abuse, thanks to procedures and complaint mechanisms implemented by UNHCR and other 70 partners.
- Thirteen initiatives aiming at the socio-economic recovery of refugees and migrants in the sub-region were unfunded.
- 6,109 vulnerable families did not receive cash support, and 20,000 people did not receive guidance on business opportunities.
- Over 6,500 refugees and migrants lacked adequate shelter.
- Underfunding combined with pandemic-related travel bans prevented 176 people of concern to reunite with their families and 195 people from being resettled to the Southern Cone.
Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)Flexible funding allowed for cooperation with local NGOs in provide food and hygiene kits to 610 families in Argentina. Also, 190,665 kg of food was delivered to soup kitchens preparing hot meals for both people of concern to UNHCR and vulnerable host communities during the lockdown. During winter, 9,100 people received much-needed winter clothes, shoes and blankets.
UNHCR supported 253 refugees and migrants setting up projects helping their socioeconomic recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic through projects adapted to market needs and prospects. These included a virtual music academy, restaurants, home care services or textile entrepreneurships.
Response in 2020The regional dynamics and political developments in Venezuela, as well as measures taken by the countries in the region to ensure asylum and migratory pathways remain open to Venezuelans, will considerably affect the operational environment of the Southern Cone. Elections in several countries are likely to lead to changes and relationships with government counterparts will need to be re-established. An increased number of arrivals with heightened vulnerabilities and fewer economic means, in addition to a pessimistic economic outlook in the region, mean it will be imperative to focus on addressing protection risks, work with host communities and foster socio-economic and financial inclusion.
The dramatic rise in Venezuelan arrivals during 2019 is expected to continue, and possibly accelerate, in 2020. By the beginning of 2020, the region is expected to host approximately 622,960 people of concern from Venezuela (210 refugees, 6,200 asylum-seekers and 616,550 Venezuelans displaced abroad). These figures suggest a total population of 726,460 by the end of 2020 (360 refugees, 8,130 asylum seekers and 717,970 Venezuelans displaced abroad). The population assisted by UNHCR is also expected to increase in the region, and it is estimated that more than 90% of assisted persons will be Venezuelans.
To achieve maximum impact, UNHCR is working closely with a range of partners. The main government counterpart in all countries is the National Refugee Commission, as well as the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Public Defender’s Office and the Office of Domestic Violence in Argentina, the ombudsperson in Bolivia and Chile are among the other structures providing advice, and monitoring, access to legal assistance and protection of people of concern. In addition to co-leading the regional platforms for coordination of the regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan with IOM, UNHCR has created close partnerships with the private sector to foster access to labour and job markets, and achieve financial inclusion. Cooperation with municipalities, cities of solidarity and academia at national and regional level is key to help shape public policies. Close coordination with the UN as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is important to UNHCR’s partnership strategy.
The priority for the multi-country office for southern Latin America in 2020 will continue to be addressing the protection, assistance and integration needs of Venezuelans, in line with the regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan, while ensuring that other people of concern benefit equally from existing programmes. UNHCR will provide life-saving assistance in border areas as well as main cities, while cooperating with the private sector to achieve financial and socio-economic inclusion.
In line with UNHCR’s global strategy, the operation will prioritize and scale-up cash-based interventions for emergency assistance and integration. Cities of solidarities play an important part in helping people of concern integrate in host countries and communities and ensure a sustainable approach to development, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Protection services, such as the prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence, family reunification, legal counselling and access to documentation, will be provided to address, in particular, the needs of women and girls. Through partners, UNHCR will increase its field presence in nine key locations in the Southern Cone to work more closely with communities and grass-root organizations. The implementation of the “Global action plan to end statelessness: 2014-2024 and “The three-year (2019-2021) strategy on resettlement and complementary pathways” to strengthen third-country solutions in the region will be another important part of UNHCR’s protection strategy.
As part of the recommendations of the Global Compact on Refugees, UNHCR in Argentina is mainstreaming a multi-stakeholder approach and reinforcing innovative solutions for responsibility sharing. Using an age, gender and diversity approach to ensure people of concern feel empowered and involved throughout the programme cycle while strengthening mechanisms to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment will be key to UNHCR’s programme approach in the Southern Cone.