By the end of 2021, R4V partners estimated that the population of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in need within the Caribbean had increased by almost 13% in comparison to the previous year. However, despite the growing needs, less than 30% of the funding requirements of the Caribbean RMRP 2021 were met.
Continued border closures and limited legal entry pathways, lockdown measures, and the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to negatively impact the living conditions of Venezuelans in Caribbean countries, where they faced reduced employment opportunities, losses of income and generally precarious living conditions, and reduced access to social and economic rights, such as food security and nutrition, dignified shelter, WASH, health services, and more.
Throughout 2021, there were notable increases in requests for humanitarian assistance from R4V partners by refugees and migrants in the Caribbean, particularly for food security support. Malnutrition and waterborne diseases reportedly increased among refugee and migrant families in Guyana, particularly in indigenous communities. Reduced quantity and quality of nutritious foods were also observed by R4V partners among children in Trinidad and Tobago.
Access to regularization and asylum procedures remained limited in many countries of the Caribbean, with some exceptions. In January 2021, the Dominican Republic established a Normalization Plan for Venezuelans, for which R4V partners were instrumental in designing and implementing the process with the Government. In March 2021, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago conducted a re-registration exercise for previously registered Venezuelans and extended their stay permits through the end of 2021. On the other hand, in early 2021, both Aruba and Curaçao implemented entry visa requirements for Venezuelans. Government-issued stay-permits in Guyana did not allow Venezuelans to legally work.
The protection of Venezuelans in transit and those in an irregular situation also remained key challenges in 2021. Aruba, Curaçao, and Trinidad and Tobago continued to deport Venezuelans in an irregular situation, with limited access to asylum procedures and to territory for those arriving irregularly. Aruba, Curaçao, and Trinidad and Tobago partners also reported instances of Venezuelans compelled to return to Venezuela as their socio- economic situations in their host countries worsened. Increased risks of human trafficking and smuggling and deaths at sea from shipwrecks of vessels transporting refugees and migrants were also recorded.