Half of the refugees and migrants from Venezuela in Latin America cannot afford three meals a day
Two Venezuelan migrants rest on a rock. The number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela around the world has already exceeded six million, the vast majority of them hosted by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. (PAHO/Karen Gonzalez)
Inflation, the prolonged impact of the pandemic, and unemployment exacerbate the fragility of the country's displaced persons, making it difficult for them to integrate and rebuild their lives.
Some 4.3 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela have difficulties accessing food, housing and formal employment, according to the Refugee and Migrant Needs Analysis of the Regional Interagency Coordination Platform* for these displaced persons.
In fact, according to the report**, half of the refugee and migrant population in the region cannot afford three meals a day and do not have access to decent and safe housing. To buy food or avoid living on the streets, many Venezuelans are forced to resort to survival sex, begging or going into debt.
The rapid increase in the cost of living, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 emergency, and high unemployment rates have exacerbated the vulnerability of refugees and migrants from Venezuela, thus making the process difficult. integration and reconstruction of their lives in host communities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
Amid these socioeconomic problems, the region has witnessed the continued modest arrival of refugees and migrants from Venezuela, increasingly heading north through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and other Central American states, to Mexico with the intention of reaching the United States; the country that a growing proportion of displaced Venezuelans consider their intended destination.
Increasing humanitarian needs
In the face of increasingly unstable and unequal socio-economic conditions in the region, the needs of refugees and migrants in the region are expected to worsen during the second half of 2022 and continue beyond, likely creating new waves of refugees and migrants who do not they will not have access to basic services or employment, according to the report.
Despite the progress achieved through various regularization and documentation initiatives implemented throughout the region, the increase in humanitarian needs highlights the urgent need to improve protection and access to services and employment opportunities, according to the Analysis.
"People from Venezuela want to share their skills and knowledge, and contribute to the communities that have generously welcomed them. Many are already doing so. But they will not be able to continue if they are not given the opportunity to integrate effectively," he said. Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration.
Low wages, lack of access to education
Extremely low wages further hinder their ability to support themselves and their families. In Ecuador, for example, 86% of Venezuelan migrants say they do not have enough income to meet their basic needs, while in Chile, 13% of them live below the poverty line.
Despite the reopening of schools, many refugee and migrant children and adolescents continue to face multiple obstacles in accessing educational services in their host countries, mainly due to a lack of places or space in schools.
For example, in Colombia, 29% of Venezuelan children and adolescents between the ages of six and 17 are not enrolled in school, since their parents cannot pay for tuition and school supplies. In Aruba and Curaçao, the value of compulsory insurance, transportation and school supplies prevent schooling.
Many of the Venezuelans without documentation, livelihoods or prospects for local integration resort to secondary movements to new host countries, hoping for a secure and sustainable future. To reach it, they often put their lives at risk through extremely dangerous irregular routes.
"As the world faces multiple humanitarian crises, the people of Venezuela and the communities that host them cannot be forgotten," Stein added.
“Host countries have shown constant leadership in their response to the crisis, adopting regularization measures and facilitating access to health, education and other social services. However, regularization is only the first step towards integration and must be accompanied by policies that allow refugees and migrants to be self-sufficient. International support is urgently needed."
As of October 2022, there are more than 7.1 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela worldwide, according to official statistics reported by host countries and compiled by the Regional Interagency Coordination Platform. More than 80% are welcomed in 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.