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Colombia/Venezuela - The Caminantes: needs and vulnerabilities of Venezuelan refugees and migrants travelling on foot, Thematic report, January 2021

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The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela continues to drive refugee and migration flows into Latin American countries. Because of a loss of economic resources – in some cases caused or aggravated by COVID-19-related restrictions – an increasing number of refugees and migrants are travelling in part or entirely on foot (so-called ‘caminantes’). During their journey, they are exposed to a series of protection risks and are in need of basic goods and services such as food, water, and shelter. While the phenomenon of caminantes has been observed since 2018, their vulnerability is increased in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic because of additional health risks and less assistance being available. As conditions in Venezuela worsen, the number of caminantes is increasing. In 2021, an estimated 162,000 caminantes will pass through Colombia, 90,300 through Ecuador, 75,600 through Peru, and 2,900 through Central America and Mexico (R4V 10/12/2020). Estimating the number of caminantes is highly challenging, as the figure can vary drastically if the situation in Venezuela or access to transportation changes.

KEY ISSUES

  • Caminantes face significant protection risks including exposure to extortion, exploitation, physical and sexual violence, and lack of access to support systems.

  • Humanitarian access constraints, especially in Venezuela and in areas of Colombia affected by conflict, limit humanitarian operations and caminantes’ access to aid.

KEY PRIORITIES

  • The availability of low-cost transport, financial support or vouchers that can be redeemed with bus companies, or special transport provided by humanitarian organisations would greatly reduce the number of people travelling on foot and their exposure to associated risks and needs.

  • Caminantes need access to safe and adequate shelter, food, water for consumption and personal hygiene, and healthcare