Migration and Refugee Venezuelan Crisis: IOM Regional Response Overview | April 2018 - February 2019
The driving factors of the continuous outflow of Venezuelan women, men, girls and boys to other countries in the region have gained strength, complexity and volatility since IOM officially launched its regional response in April 2018. This is reflected not only in an increase in the number of Venezuelans abroad as new official data is available, but also in overwhelming peaks in the number of entries and the worsening vulnerability conditions of migrants and refugees.
As of February 2019, it is estimated that around 3.4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela live abroad, 2.7 million (79%) of them in Latin America and the Caribbean countries. Colombia, Peru, Chile and Ecuador report the highest numbers of Venezuelans in their territories with 1.1 million, 710,000, 288,233 and 250,000 persons respectively. Complementarily, the intensity and scale of the flows is illustrated by entry records through critical border points: 45,000 Venezuelan passport holders entered Colombia through Simon Bolivar International Bridge in January 2019; from 1 January to 12 February 2019, 46,500 Venezuelans entered Ecuador through Rumichaca International Bridge and 26,600 to Peru through Huaquillas/Tumbes Border Post.
Flows´ dynamics have been often correlated with migration policy decisions taken at national level.
Announcements in Ecuador and Peru in August 2018 to set valid passport presentation as entry condition resulted in an increase in numbers of Venezuelans trying to reach those countries in the days prior to the date when the measures would enter into force. In January 2019, after Ecuadorian authorities introduced changes to entry requirement for Venezuelans by instituting provision of certificates of criminal records, daily arrivals of Venezuelans fell from 3,169 to 771 three days after the measure was introduced (a 75% reduction).
The escalating outflow reached a critical tipping point in the first quarter of 2018, when several additional factors converged: a) large concentration of Venezuelans in border points and other receiving areas with poor reception conditions generating increased public health risks; b) public structures and resources available at local level in recipient countries became clearly insufficient to cope with the immediate protection, shelter, food and non-food item (NFI) needs; c) capacities of the migration and asylum authorities to manage the high demand for documentation and legal status were overstretched; d) individuals and families were arriving in extremely vulnerable conditions and with significantly reduced resilience and self-sufficiency as a result of a prolonged limited access to basic services and goods; d) intensified use of unsafe land routes to arrive to their temporary or final destination country, posing increasing threats to the life and dignity of Venezuelans on the move.
As of early 2019, the previously identified conditions continue to be present, and additional and complex humanitarian consequences have become apparent. The most recent official data, Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) reports and field monitoring activities shed light on persistent and emergent humanitarian situations and risks:
• Many travel long distances by foot, or undertake multiple journeys during their displacement, with scarce access to goods and services to meet basic needs while also facing developing or worsening health conditions. Pregnant women, women with children, and unaccompanied and separated children are part of this groups of Venezuelans that often must use unsafe routes where they are exposed to violence, traffickers and smugglers, abuse and exploitation, and GVB. In the case of children, there is also a risk of recruitment and utilization by illegal armed groups and organised criminal organizations.
• During peaks in the number of arrivals at the main regular entry points, waiting times expand considerably as processing capacity is greatly exceeded. At that point in their migration route, those individuals and families arriving at the border points have most often already depleted their limited resources and have no means of self-subsistence, including access to food, shelter, basic NFI and secure WASH and emergency health care for themselves and their families. This scenario further increases their vulnerability to exploitation by traffickers and smugglers.
• Once in the country of destination, Venezuelans face significant challenges to access basic social and protection services, with those in an irregular situation or belonging to indigenous communities being among the most vulnerable. Individuals with high-cost chronic diseases, pregnant women, the elderly and accompanied children or separated children often have accumulated care needs and exhibit deteriorating health conditions. Unmet needs are also evident in the areas of accommodation, nutrition, WASH, and child education. As unmet needs pile up, so does the risk of exploitation and abuse and engagement in survival sex and other high-risk activities.
DTM data have also shown that beyond the immediate humanitarian and protections needs, Venezuelan migrant and refugees give priority to finding sustainable income generation opportunities and gaining access to health care and education systems. In contrast, negative perceptions on migration and Venezuelan amongst host communities in some receiving countries are frequently fuelled by unsubstantiated fears of displacement in the job market and by information on budgetary efforts made by governments to fulfil the health and education rights of the incoming population, while receiving communities often find themselves still facing difficulties of full access. Risks of discriminatory and xenophobic attitudes and actions have been accentuated by the effect on the public opinion of highly publicized isolated cases of violence or crimes involving Venezuelan nationals as alleged perpetrators.
Host countries in the region have, thus far, maintained a commendable open-door policy and demonstrated considerable solidarity towards Venezuelans. Most governments in the impacted countries have been developing and adapting their institutional arrangements and programmatic response mechanisms to provide emergency assistance and protection and pave the way toward socio-economic integration in highly complex local conditions and with overstretched institutional capacity. Alongside registration (e.g. Registro Administrativo de Migrante Venezolanos-RAMV- in Colombia), provision of humanitarian assistance and access to social services -sometimes in the framework of emergency declarations (e.g. Brazil and Ecuador)-, governments have also put in place ordinary and extraordinary mechanisms such as the Permiso Temporal de Permanencia (PTP) in Peru, the Residência Temporária in Brazil, the Permiso Especial de Permanencia (PEP) in Colombia and the Visa de Responsabilidad Democrática in Chile. As of December 2018, 1.3 million residence permits and other forms of regular migratory status had been granted by 13 states in the region, with Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina at top of the list.
Governments of the main receiving countries have also been addressing the need for interstate coordination and policy harmonization. While discussions on the situation in Venezuela have been held in the Organization for American States, the Lima Group, and the International Contact Group promoted by the European Union, most signatory countries of the Quito Declaration have endorsed a comprehensive Action Plan presented in November 2018 during the II International Quito Meeting; a third meeting has been scheduled for early April 2019.