This photo was taken in La Parada, Colombia on June 12th, 2022. This family walked for 15 days to get to the border between Colombia and Venezuela. (Shutterstock)
Geneva: Some 4.3 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela face challenges accessing food, housing, and stable employment, a recent assessment concludes. Despite the progress achieved through various regularization and documentation initiatives implemented across Latin America and the Caribbean, increased humanitarian needs underline the urgent need for enhanced protection and access to services and employment opportunities, according to a new analysis. The Refugee and Migrant Needs Analysis (RMNA) was conducted by the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (R4V), co-led by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The spiraling cost of living, fallout from the COVID-19 emergency, and high unemployment rates have increased the vulnerability of Venezuelan refugees and migrants and have made it difficult for many to rebuild their lives and integrate into host societies across the region. According to the report’s findings, half of all refugees and migrants in the region cannot afford three meals a day and lack access to safe and dignified housing. To access food or avoid living on the streets, many Venezuelans resort to survival sex, begging or indebtedness.
“Venezuelans are eager to share their skills and knowledge and contribute to the communities that have generously welcomed them. Many have already been doing so.” said Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela. “But they won’t be able to continue if they are not given an opportunity to integrate effectively.”
Extremely low salaries further hinder their ability to support themselves and their families. In Ecuador for example, 86 per cent of Venezuelans indicate lack of sufficient income to meet their basic needs, while in Chile 13 per cent of Venezuelans live below the poverty line. Despite the reopening of schools, many refugee and migrant children still face multiple obstacles to access education services in their host countries, notably due to the lack of enrolment slots or space in schools. In Colombia, 29 per cent of Venezuelan children aged 6 to 17 years old are not enrolled in schools, as their parents cannot afford school fees and materials. In Aruba and Curaçao, the cost of mandatory insurance, transportation and school materials impede school enrollment.
Some of the Venezuelans who lack documentation, livelihoods and prospects of local integration are resorting to onward movements in search of a safe and sustainable future. Many put their lives at risk by taking extremely dangerous irregular routes.
“As the world faces numerous humanitarian crises, Venezuelans and their host communities must not be forgotten,” added Stein. “Host countries have shown continued leadership in responding to the crisis through establishing regularization initiatives and facilitating access to health, education and other social services. Regularization, however, is only a first step to integration and needs to be followed by policies that allow refugees and migrants to be self-reliant. International support is urgently required.”
As of October 2022, there are more than 7.1 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela around the world, according to official statistics reported by host countries and compiled by R4V. Over 80 per cent are hosted across 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.