Analysis of the context, crisis and needs
The political, human rights and socioeconomic developments in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela have led to the largest movement of refugees and migrants in the recent history of Latin America and the Caribbean. As of November 2020, of the approximately 5.5 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela displaced globally, some 4.6 million are hosted in the region alone, including an estimated 1 million with an irregular status. Despite the devastating and ongoing socioeconomic and human impact of COVID-19, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have continued to show great solidarity towards Venezuelans, facilitate access to basic rights and life-saving services, and support their integration. However, the already precarious situation of many refugees and migrants from Venezuela and affected host communities is reaching alarming levels. National and local capacities have been dangerously strained due to the continued impact of COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean, threatening the overall social fabric in the 17 countries covered by the regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP).
Some countries have included Venezuelans in social welfare programmes put in place during the pandemic, but there is a need for R4V partners to significantly scale-up efforts to assist people in increasingly precarious situations. In a region characterized by high levels of informal labour, the implementation of measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 (including border closures, lockdowns, curfews and other quarantine measures) has had a disproportionately grave impact on refugees and migrants. Without savings or alternative social safety nets, many people are unable to cover basic needs or access vital services due to the loss of employment.
Halted or limited movements between borders have reduced the ability of refugees and migrants to regularly enter and stay in some countries in 2020. This has resulted in increased irregular border crossings and exposure to protection risks. The deteriorating economic and social situation in many countries resulted in some refugees and migrants considering return, often through irregular channels. This has raised additional protection and health concerns. At the same time, increasing numbers of re-entries to neighbouring countries were noted towards the end of the year.
Projected situation in 2021 and beyond
In 2021, movements of refugees and migrants in the region, including through irregular channels, are expected to continue despite the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, potential restrictions at border crossings, and/or lack of opportunities to regularize their stay in countries of destination. People in such irregular situations will remain highly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including violence, discrimination, smuggling and trafficking.
Due to the complex economic and political outlook, increased dependency on emergency humanitarian assistance in the areas of health, shelter, food, protection and access to education is reflected in the increased needs outlined in the 2021 RMRP.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a dramatic increase of reported cases of GBV and mental health needs, leading to widespread food insecurity, rising levels of malnutrition and growing destitution, especially among the most vulnerable people, namely unaccompanied and separated children, single-headed households, women and girls at risk of GBV and trafficking, the elderly, those with chronic diseases, the LGBTQI+ community and those in irregular situations.
Xenophobia and stigmatization are on the rise, often based on negative perceptions associated with fear of spreading the virus and rising rates of evictions and homelessness, leading to a vicious cycle of irregularity, vulnerability, destination and stigmatization.
Response priorities in 2021
The Venezuela RMRP 2021 will address the identified needs through significantly scaled-up efforts across its different sectors. It will maintain a balance between responses, focusing on immediate humanitarian assistance and protection activities that bridge the humanitarian-development-peace nexus by responding to the longer-term resilience and integration needs of affected populations and host institutional communities. As such, the RMRP 2021 is the result of an intra-regional, field-driven strategic planning process, bringing together 158 appealing organizations in consultation with all host Governments, local communities and authorities, civil society and faith-based organizations, the Red Cross Movement and the donor community, as well as consultations with refugees and migrants from Venezuela.
The Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform (R4V) is convened by UNHCR and IOM to coordinate response efforts across 17 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2021, it will further strengthen coherency and consistency throughout the response. The response is reflective of the diverse thematic needs and response objectives, and it is structured across nine regional sectors with the additional support of six working groups, all led by different NGOs and UN agencies that will continue providing strategic sectoral leadership in 2021.
Complementing the work of the Regional Platform, dedicated local coordination mechanisms (eight National and Subregional Platforms) will collaborate with host Governments on the operational coordination and implementation of the RMRP. These National and Subregional Platforms are in place in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru at the national levels, and in the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico and Southern Cone at the subregional levels. Their sectoral configuration is tailored to the situational context and operational capacities of Governments and RMRP partners, taking into account existing coordination structures as well as needs of refugees and migrants in the specific context.
In 2021, the RMRP seeks to complement and further strengthen the national and regional responses of Governments, including specifically the Quito Process as the main technical regional intergovernmental coordination forum in which key policies towards refugees and migrants from Venezuela are discussed and adopted.
- The people in need figure corresponds to refugees and migrants from Venezuela in destination (PiN: 3.8M / target: 2.3M), in pendular movement (PiN: 992k / target: 188k) and Colombian returnees (PiN: 625k / target: 174k), as well as host communities (PiN: 1.7M / target: 660k). For additional information concerning refugees and migrants from Venezuela in transit (PiN: 285k / target: 212k), please see the Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP).