In 2019, the island hosted the world’s largest number of Venezuelans displaced abroad relative to its population (1 in 6). Estimates are that 17,000 Venezuelan refugees and migrants will be present in Aruba at the end of 2020, increasing to 20,000 by December 2021, as they continue seeking safety in Aruba despite border restrictions and newly implemented visa requirements.
While most Venezuelans arrived in Aruba through a formal visa or initial permit, many have overstayed a visa or permit, and are consequently irregular in the country. Some arrive by boat through irregular migratory pathways, exposing themselves to dangerous sea journeys and serious protection risks. Many struggle to regularize their stay and risk abuse, exploitation, detention and deportation.
Lack of documentation and legal status hinder Venezuelans’ access to basic services such as healthcare and prevent them from accessing formal employment and livelihood opportunities.
They are excluded from public social programmes except for COVID-19-specific food assistance. Other obstacles to education and other services include language barriers, lack of information, and associated costs, including for transportation.
Considering Aruba’s small size and limited absorption capacity, increased focus is placed on integration, prioritizing peaceful co-existence and self-reliance through social cohesion initiatives and livelihood opportunities for Venezuelans.
COVID-19 has impacted the economy and public health of Aruba, primarily dependent on tourism, exacerbating Venezuelans’ vulnerabilities including countrywide loss of livelihoods. Long-lasting economic impacts are anticipated. For many Venezuelans, these conditions have escalated protection risks, exemplified in increased reports of evictions, concerns about mental distress and exposure to violence, including gender-based violence (GBV).
Provide information and guidance on asylum processes, regularization and documentation to refugees and migrants.
Strengthen advocacy with authorities for alternatives to detention and to facilitate registration and documentation of Venezuelans.
Provide legal assistance and counselling on access to justice and asylum procedures.
Prevent, mitigate and respond to protection risks of refugees and migrants from Venezuela, prioritizing those with specific needs. Strengthen community-based protection mechanisms for GBV.
Provide and improve safe and dignified access to essential goods and critical services, including emergency shelter facilities, education, health care, food assistance and non-food items in synergy with sustainable development assistance. This includes enhancing the provision of essential services to respond to the COVID-19 emergency
Support and facilitate increased resilience and integration opportunities and access of Venezuelans to livelihood opportunities and formal employment.
Enhance social cohesion through the organization of peaceful coexistence campaigns.
Strengthen the capacity of key actors to combat trafficking in persons, smuggling, and exploitation of refugees and migrants, providing comprehensive assistance to persons with specific needs.