Waning welcome: the growing challenges facing mixed migration flows from Venezuela - A field assessment study in Colombia and Peru

Report
from Danish Refugee Council, Mixed Migration Centre
Published on 04 Sep 2019 View Original

1. Introduction

This report describes the findings of an assessment of mixed migration out of Venezuela towards Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, with the aim of identifying risks and current gaps in the protection of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, and to inform more effective protectionbased programming in the region.

The report begins by assessing available information on the situation in Venezuela and the elements that are triggering the exodus of refugees and migrants out of the country, before developing an overview of the response provided to the Venezuelan migration crisis at the international, regional, and national levels.

The report then describes the main characteristics of Venezuelan mixed migration flows, with profiles those leaving Venezuela and overviews of key migration drivers.

It then analyses the dynamics of their movement in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, highlighting the protection risks they face in different parts of their journey, and the living conditions they encounter at their destinations.
The changing dynamics of migrant smuggling are also described, in conjunction with the increasing restrictions on regular migration that have been introduced in the region.

The report concludes by identifying knowledge gaps and outlining potential areas for further research to improve the capacity of relevant stakeholders to develop adequate protection responses for people on the move.

Key findings

• Venezuelans feel compelled to leave their country mostly due to a widespread lack of access to basic services such as food and healthcare and the grim future they see for themselves and their families in Venezuela. Loss of purchasing power and the collapse of public services are commonly identified as the main source of this feeling of frustration and helplessness.

• Most Venezuelan refugees and migrants have very limited financial resources, and travel in precarious conditions, which puts them at risk of protection incidents during their journeys, including robberies, physical assault and sexual gender-based violence (SGBV).

• As the number of refugees and migrants arriving in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru – as well as their humanitarian needs – grew exponentially since 2017/2018, perceptions of and attitudes towards Venezuelans in transit and destination countries have hardened. Increasing racism and xenophobia have triggered discrimination, hostility, and, in some occasions, physical violence.

• After initially adopting an open-door policy towards refugees and migrants, in something of a domino effect, countries in South America began successively to introduce stricter immigration measures, establishing requirements that are often impossible to meet for most Venezuelans. As a result, more Venezuelans resorted to either applying for asylum or entering irregularly.

• One of the consequences of closing borders has been an increase in the demand for and supply of migrant smuggling services. Smuggling dynamics are, in general, not as structured as in some other regions of the world, where highly organized and sophisticated transnational networks organize all aspects of irregular movement across countries. In Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, smuggling services mostly focus on facilitating irregular border crossings. Private companies presenting themselves as travel agencies are also involved in facilitating movement out of Venezuela and across the region, providing services that often seem to constitute migrant smuggling rather than legitimate travel services.

• More restrictive immigration policies limit access to regular immigration status for Venezuelan refugees and migrants. Irregular immigration status obstructs access to many kinds of services and exposes Venezuelans to an increased risk of exploitation.

• There is currently no sign that mixed migration out of Venezuela will stop or even decrease soon. This implies a need for long-term planning by the countries of destination of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, with a focus on local integration.