Between the 22nd of July and the 2nd of August, MIEUX travelled to several locations in Northern Brazil for the first activity in a new Action that will train the staff of the Public Defender Office (DPU) of Brazil in conducting international protection interviews with children. The first activity aimed at assessing the current situation of children and adolescents in migration in Amazonas and Roraima, two Brazilian States recording high volumes of immigration from Venezuela. Subsequently, European experts will train the staff of the DPU on the structured interview protocol for international protection applicants taking into account gender, age, ethnicity and impairments among other factors.

Northern Brazil and international protection for Venezuelans

The current political and economic crisis in Venezuela has led to increasing numbers of its nationals crossing the Venezuela-Brazil border through the town of Pacaraima, with many continuing their journey through Boa Vista in Roraima State and on to Manaus in the Amazonas State. According to the DPU, an average of 600 Venezuelans cross the border every day, arriving in vulnerable conditions and requiring urgent assistance with documentation, shelter, food and health services. As a result, there are high numbers of unaccompanied and/or undocumented Venezuelan children and adolescents in the border municipality of Pacaraima, who may become potential victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.

In order to better manage migration flows and propose a better future for the Venezuelan refugees, an inter-ministerial programme called Operação Acolhida (Operation Reception) launched in 2018 provides a structural response to the flows arriving in Roraima and Manaus and proposes integration measures. Operation Reception is supported by the United Nations, the European Union, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), with local civil society organisations and the military all participating as actors in its implementation.

“During the mission, we were able to witness first-hand the extensive support that DPU and the Operação Acolhida are already providing to migrants coming mainly from Venezuela. Nevertheless a lot remains to be done and we hope to support them by bringing a specific focus on the reception, sheltering and integration of children and adolescents in Roraima and Amazonas regions”.

Romain Gustot, Project Officer, MIEUX

Migrant children: current gaps in Brazil’s response to a mounting challenge

In regards to children in migration, current challenges include language, access to appropriate education and health services, and avoiding separation from their families. Of particular concern are those who arrive alone, who are unlikely to be able to meet documentation requirements and will, therefore, be at further risk of exploitation, human trafficking, and violence. When accompanied by family members who are not their parents or direct family, Reception operatives launch an active search for close relatives.

In 2018, following a meeting of the relevant bodies, the Judge for Childhood and Youth ruled that services to migrants should be improved, providing instructions to federal agents who have encountered difficulties in screening and referring children, and in situations of risk. Additional officers were deployed, working with the Federal Police to search for relatives of unaccompanied children and verify the parental links with the adults with whom they arrived.

In late 2018, the DPU issued a report that described the lack of protection for children, adolescents, and women, particularly of the Warao indigenous ethnic group, towards potential sexual exploitation and trafficking. The report came after a mission to Manaus within the framework of the Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT), in collaboration with the EU, UNICEF, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and IOM.

MIEUX’s role: assess and support the Brazilian Government

In order to provide a suitable response to the gaps highlighted in the report, the DPU requested assistance from MIEUX in late 2018. The resulting Action will support the Government of Brazil in assessing the current situation in the affected States and offer capacity building to up to 80 government officials in interviewing techniques for international protection applicants, especially children.

The proposed activities not only respond to the needs of the Brazilian DPU but are also in line with the core and advanced modules of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) training curriculum. With a heavy focus on EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child and the child-specific provisions in the Common European Asylum Package, the MIEUX experts will focus their training on disaggregating data by sex, age and ethnic origin and situation of children in migration and unaccompanied migrant children in the EU.

On a general level, they will share with participants EU-wide actions on children in migration; principles of integrated child protection systems with a specific focus on reception and procedural guarantees considering the different aspects that reinforce their vulnerable situation; and share the experience of creating an online EU database on good practices on the protection of children in migration. MIEUX experts, together with the partner authority, will also develop a practical guide on gender-sensitive interviewing techniques for international protection applicants with a particular focus on interviewing children for future reference.

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