Americas Region: Population Movement Emergency Appeal 12-months Operation Update n° MDR42004

This 12-month Operation Update provides information about the overall migration situation in the Americas region, and explains how the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has adapted its response to meet evolving humanitarian needs. This document also includes information about the implementation of the Revised Emergency Plan of Action. The current Appeal coverage is at 69%. Thus far, National Societies have reached a total of 166 people in Shelter, 3,576 people in Livelihoods, 30,732 people in Health and 328,589 people in WASH activities.

The IFRC kindly encourages increased donor support to this Emergency Appeal that will enable the target National Societies to continue to contribute to the humanitarian and recovery needs of the migrant population and host communities.

A. SITUATION ANALYSIS

Description of the emergency

In early 2015, the Americas region began to experience a surge in migration flows due in large part to the rise of people emigrating from Venezuela in response to the country’s faltering economy. This swell in migration continued in the years following, as the number of Venezuelans living in Latin American countries rose from an estimated 700,000 in 2015 to over 3 million by late 2018.

As of September 2019, more than 4.3 million people have departed from Venezuela to other countries by air, land or sea; with approximately 3.5 million being hosted by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Over 5,000 Venezuelan nationals cross the different borders in the sub region daily. Projections estimate 5.6 million Venezuelans will have left the country by December 2019 (1 out of 4 Venezuelans). This is the largest migration from a single country in the region in recent history. As the numbers continue to rise, so do the needs of migrants and host communities.

In addition to the unprecedented number of migrants from Venezuela settling throughout the region, some countries in the Americas receive significant numbers of extra-regional migrants from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, South American countries saw a marked increase in extra-regional migrants due to increasingly restrictive policies in traditional destination countries, along with visa liberalization in some South American nations. Some of these migrants have settled permanently in the region, but many others choose to travel north, crossing from Colombia into Panama through the Darien Gap on their way to North America.

Migrants represent a particularly vulnerable segment of the population, as they tend to be exposed to human trafficking, abuse, exploitation and violence. Extra-regional migrants can experience even more acute vulnerabilities compared to regional migrants due to challenges with accessing regular migration status (and subsequently protected work), along with language and cultural barriers.

A series of changes to visa requirements in the region in the last year have demonstrated the impact that such government-level policy decisions can have on migrant communities. More restrictive or burdensome visa requirements for Venezuelans in Ecuador and Peru led to temporary but significant increases in the number of migrants crossing through border points in those countries. In the weeks following the announcement of new requirements, the daily numbers of Venezuelans registered leaving a country for another destination with more lenient policies increased by thousands of people in some cases. The chart below, for example, shows the number of psychosocial support (PSS) services provided in Ecuador in 2019. The large spikes in services in late May and early June in that country directly correspond to announcements regarding changes to visa requirements for Venezuelans.

As a result of the changes to visa requirements, the number of migrants entering through formal border points has decreased in recent months in much of the region. Irregular migration has increased in several countries, on the other hand, as migrants choose to circumvent established border points, often without proper documentation, in order to avoid the lengthy and expensive naturalization processes that would otherwise be required of them.

Below, a brief description of the current situation in each of the countries included in the Emergency Appeal: