British actor Liam Neeson, UNICEF’s ambassador, asked the international community for more support for Venezuelan children and adolescents who have fled the crisis that is plaguing their country, in a several-day visit to the Brazilian border that concluded on Friday.
“They are exhausted, vulnerable and still in shock for having left everything behind. As a father, I have a broken heart to hear their stories,” said Neeson, in statements collected by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“But I also saw hope in the eyes of refugee children who took every opportunity to learn in a safe environment, grow healthy and, eventually, rebuild their lives in Brazil,” he completed.
A JOURNEY TO KNOW THE DRAMA OF THE VENEZUELAN EXODUS
The famous Norwegian interpreter traveled to the Brazilian town of Pacaraima, on the dividing line with Venezuela and the main gateway to Brazil for Venezuelans fleeing the social, economic and political crisis in their country.
There he learned first-hand the reality of Venezuelan families newly arrived in Brazil, where they receive medical assistance and begin immigration procedures for their subsequent integration, within the framework of Operation Reception.
This operation, which has the support of various international organizations, including UNICEF and the Brazilian Army, is an initiative launched about two years ago by the Executive of then President Michel Temer (2016-2018) and that the Government of the current President, Jair Bolsonaro, has given continuity.
Neeson also visited Boa Vista, capital of the state of Roraima, about 220 kilometers from Pacaraima and where one of the largest humanitarian shelters is home to more than 1,000 people, half of whom are children, according to UNICEF.
According to the UN, about four million Venezuelans have left their country for other places in the world since the end of 2015, in one of the largest migratory flows on the planet.
INVEST IN YOUTH, KEY TO INTEGRATION
The actor also participated in recreational and educational activities with young Venezuelans that aim to facilitate their integration into Brazilian schools.
He also visited a camp that brings together Venezuelan and Brazilian teenagers to promote good understanding between them and thus avoid the growing xenophobia suffered by Venezuelan migrants in some Latin American countries.
“During my visit to Brazil I saw the power of the union of Venezuelan and Brazilian teenagers. That made me remember my experience during the conflict in Northern Ireland, when I saw Catholic and Protestant children being friends, breaking the fear barrier “he pointed out.
For UNICEF’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen, one of the main measures to prevent Venezuela’s immigration crisis from getting worse is to “invest in children and adolescents” in that country and “stimulate their potential” .
“In addition to life-saving assistance, it is essential to ensure the integration of migrant children into the education, health and protection systems of host countries,” he said.
UNICEF said that in December 2019, only 41% of the $ 69.5 million needed for the attention of young Venezuelan migrants had been collected during the past year.
For this year, it asks for $ 64 million to assist about 633,000 children affected by Venezuelan migration, which include those in transit and those already welcomed in six Latin American countries, including Brazil.