Venezuelan micro-credit programme for refugees to be expanded

Briefing Notes, 17 April 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 17 April 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The Venezuelan government is planning to expand a programme of micro financial assistance to Colombian refugees and asylum seekers in Venezuelan border states.

A successful first stage of this programme granted US $250,000 in micro-credits to 65 projects involving production, trade and services. In this first stage, the Venezuelan Banco del Pueblo Soberano one of the government's largest micro-finance institutions supported projects that benefited 121 families, mostly headed by women, refugees and Venezuelans living in areas bordering Colombia.

After registering a high level of return and a bad debt rate lower than 3 percent, the Banco del Pueblo Soberano plans in 2009 to double the aid to other communities of Zulia, Táchira and Apure, and to extend the programme to more border states.

This plan promotes self-employment in host communities and is a big step in the effort to protect and integrate some 12,000 asylum seekers who are waiting for status recognition. In Venezuela it can take up to three years for asylum seekers to be recognized as refugees and to receive documentation giving them access to work.

The programme is part of a "borders of solidarity" strategy UNHCR implements in countries where integration is the most suitable solution. This is the case in Venezuela, where some 200,000 Colombians have arrived in the last decade fleeing conflict in their country. Most of those in need of protection do not have identity cards, which limits their access to the labour market, funding sources and ownership possibilities.

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Panama's Hidden Refugees

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Panama's Hidden Refugees

Colombia: Assisting the Internally Displaced

Colombia is the worst humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere. More than two million people have been internally displaced during the conflict, including 200,000 persons in 2002 alone. Tens of thousands of other Colombians have sought refuge abroad.

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Colombia: Assisting the Internally Displaced

Panama's Hidden Refugees

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Panama's Hidden Refugees

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