The Dominican Republic (DR) is host to the highest number of refugees and migrants in the subregion, with 114,000 Venezuelans. This number is expected to rise to 120,944 by December 2021.
Many Venezuelans in the DR do not have regular migration status and face barriers in accessing basic services, financial institutions, and higher education. Lack of access to the formal labour market has led some Venezuelans to resort to risky coping mechanisms, including exchange of sex to meet their basic needs, exposing them to risks of exploitation and abuse. Venezuelans have the right to free primary and emergency healthcare and COVID-19 testing, but face challenges in accessing secondary and specialized health care, mental health and psychosocial support, and sexual and reproductive health.
The country has the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the sub-region, and its tourism-reliant economy has been adversely impacted. The closure of borders and businesses poses acute challenges for Venezuelans to access the country and has left them with limited livelihood options, rendering them vulnerable and in need of humanitarian assistance. Although the government provided financial support for informal workers and vulnerable families, approximately 87% of Venezuelans could not benefit from these programs due to their irregular status. Additionally, limited Venezuelan consular services prevent undocumented children from confirming Venezuelan nationality through jus sanguinis.
Over 60% of Venezuelans in the country are highly academically qualified, constituting an opportunity for Venezuelans to contribute and boost key economic sectors. Labour laws in the DR allow them to be employed without risk or fear of detention, but many potential employers lack knowledge of work visa sponsorship, and are unwilling to pay the substantial associated costs. Nevertheless, the newly elected government announced the need to show solidarity towards Venezuelans. R4V partners stand ready to support in case complementary pathways for regularization are adopted for this population.