INTRODUCTION AND JUSTIFICATION
The crisis in Venezuela has caused widespread displacement. Arbitrary arrests, prosecution, torture, abuse against detainees, violent crime, hyperinflation, a lack of medicine, medical supplies, and food have resulted in nearly 2 million Venezuelans who left since 2015. In Colombia, over 4,000 Venezuelans enter every day. While some enter by air, many are traveling on foot and are continuing to transit through Colombia (known as “caminantes” or “walkers”) because they lack financial means to travel through Colombia. In addition, over 1 million Venezuelans have left Venezuela and moved to Colombia in the past year and a half. This includes:442,000 Venezuelans without legal permits; 376,000 with legal status; and 300,000 Colombians who had lived in Venezuela but returned to Colombia.
For those staying in Colombia, some are able to gain access legally, by having the appropriate documentation, or applying for asylum (2,057 applications since 2014) ; and for programs like the Special Permit of Permanence (PEP) to 262,535 Colombians as of June 2018 – mainly in the cities of Bogotá, Medellín and Barranquilla. This is for Venezuelans who were in Colombia prior to February and who entered via an official immigration check post. Those who have the PEP and passport can access the Colombian health care system, for up to two years.
While some of these programs are facilitating access to minimum and basic services, there are challenges for those who do not have documentation. This includes no formal work, no access to non-emergency health care, no certification to proceed through education; as well as threats such as xenophobia; extortion; vulnerability to human trafficking, including sexual exploitation, and being less likely to report abuses to authorities.
The International Rescue Committee conducted an assessment in Cucuta in September 2017, and began responding in April 2018, with programs in sexual and reproductive health, cash assistance, women’s protection and empowerment, and child protection. With the ongoing needs and volume of people continuing to cross the border, the IRC elected to conduct a multi-sector needs assessment to determine needs, gaps, and potential opportunities to expand programming to Venezuelans in other areas of the country.