UNHCR signs agreement with Venezuelan "Banco del Pueblo Soberano"

Briefing Notes, 18 January 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 18 January 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has signed an agreement with the Venezuelan "Banco del Pueblo Soberano" one of the largest micro-finance institutions of the Venezuelan government to grant micro-credits to Colombian refugees and asylum seekers in the Venezuelan border states of Zulia, Táchira and Apure. The agreement, which totals over US $700,000, will benefit some 10,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers as well as some 200,000 unregistered Colombians in need of international protection.

The low-interest loans are designed to help people set up self-employment projects in agriculture, fishing, farming, small-scale manufacturing and commerce. Beneficiaries will also receive basic training in business management, accounting and other necessary skills to run small businesses. Besides helping refugees and others in need of protection, the projects will have a positive impact in the economic development of border areas.

An estimated 200,000 Colombians have fled the conflict in their country and sought safety in Venezuela. Most of them lack identity documents and this hampers their access to services, as well as to the labour market, property and traditional sources of credit.