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R4V Response for Venezuelans – Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela: Central America and Mexico Situation Report – June 2020

Situation Report
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  • In Panama, a total of 33,550 accumulated cases (20,087 in June alone) have been registered since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. The measures taken by the government are: suspension of international flights for an additional 30 calendar days from June 22; establishment of three new sanitary perimeters in the country (two in the province of Bocas del Toro, one in the province of Colón). The Health Authority has re-implemented a general quarantine that limits the mobility of people by days and sex due to the notable increase in COVID-19 cases. As the general quarantine is maintained and the Venezuelan population is not able to engage in income generating activities, the need for food, health and safe housing are significantly increasing. As for the documents issued by the National Immigration Services and the documentation presented for the immigration procedures that expired between March 13 and July 31, they have been extended until October 31 and without fines. In addition, the Ministry of Labor has extended the validity of work permits until October 21, 2020.

  • In Costa Rica, after the first COVID-19 case registered on March 7, the Government (GoCR) has directed several measures to control the infection rate. These measures include movement restrictions, closure of national borders (restrictions on entry to nationals and residents) and social distancing protocols until August 1. During the month of June, 3459 people were diagnosed with COVID-19. Government authorities declared an "orange alert" to certain areas of the Central Valley area (including San José). Due to the difficulty of controlling the spread of the virus, the San José metropolitan area was declared under community contact and the reopening plan was delayed, affecting vehicle mobility, commerce and refugee and migrant livelihoods. Due to this series of measures, humanitarian actors have changed the response strategy to greater online support, while CBI and health insurance cards operate through the local mail service. The Office of the Ombudsman of Costa Rica received complaints that the refugees and migrants were denied access to the GoCR Protect Bond (unemployment and underemployment assistance program) and included the issue in the institution's Annual Report indicating that the denial Access to this program constitutes a discriminatory measure against populations that are in extreme affected areas, specifically refugees and asylum seekers, further aggravating their situation. Congress rejected the Executive's request to allocate additional resources to finance 200,000 new requests. This happens as unemployment reaches its highest ever rate of 15.7% for February - April, deeply affecting refugees and migrants and adding pressure on R4V partners to obtain assistance.

  • In Mexico, during the month of June, the decrease in Venezuelan arrivals at international airports continued. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs extended the suspension of various activities due to COVID-19, including naturalization processes, which continue to be suspended until the health authorities determine otherwise. In consultations with R4V partners in June, the protection concerns of Venezuelan refugees and migrants was identified due to the long waiting time for documentation (certificates of asylum seekers, refugee status determination resolutions and general documentation to access basic services). The United States immigration courts remain closed until mid-July, affecting the Venezuelan population at the northern border whose hearing have again been rescheduled. NGOs reported in recent months there has been an increase in inquiries from Venezuelans requesting information on how to apply for asylum at Mexican airports, as they would be planning to travel to Mexico as soon as travel restrictions in the region are lifted.