By Rachel Schmidtke and Anatalí Oquendo Lorduy
More than 5 million Venezuelans have made the difficult decision to leave their homes due to the grave humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Many of the over 1 million Venezuelans in Peru made extremely challenging journeys and faced barriers to entry to find refuge in a new country. Most had high aspirations for their new life in Peru. Yet, for many, these aspirations have been dashed due to the pandemic and lockdown measures. Peru first entered lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic on March 15, 2020, and despite strict public health measures implemented over the last year to contain the virus, the pandemic rages on. This report documents the experience of Venezuelans living in Peru one year into the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Peruvian federal and local governments have made some good advancements in access to education and temporary work opportunities such as improving access to education and providing support to victims of gender-based violence, humanitarian support during COVID is lacking. The Peruvian government provides little humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan communities, preferring to leave this responsibility to international organizations, most notably the United Nations system. There have been some noteworthy successes in new options for regularization in the country and promising support from local governments. Despite some successes, the Peruvian government recently decided to militarize the northern border of Peru to control migration, which may force Venezuelans on the move to enter irregularly, pushing them into precarity.
To better support Venezuelans during this challenging time, the Peruvian government should take bolder steps to incorporate Venezuelans into its broader government strategy for COVID-19 relief. The government should also consider regularization options such as an expansion of the scope of an already existing humanitarian residency option for Venezuelans inside Peru. Civil society organizations should expand their outreach and work alongside Venezuelan-led organizations but need greater support from the international community. Finally, both the Peruvian government and international donors should ensure vaccinations for Peruvians and Venezuelans alike as this is essential for COVID recovery.
This report draws on the testimonies of Venezuelans living in Lima, where approximately 85 percent of Venezuelans live. Pseudonyms were used to protect the identity of those who were interviewed.