Statement at the Donors Conference in solidarity with Venezuelan refugees and migrants in countries in the region, amid the COVID-19 pandemic
Last October, in Brussels, we heard a strong call for solidarity with Venezuelan refugees and migrants. We agreed it would be followed by concrete pledges of humanitarian support, and of responsibility sharing with affected countries in the region. IN SPANISH: Por lo tanto, quisiéramos agradecer a la Unión Europea y a España por haber logrado organizar esta Conferencia a pesar de los desafíos impuestos por la Pandemia. Y, saludamos a Canadá y Noruega por unirse a esta iniciativa.
The plight of Venezuelan refugees and migrants – now more than five million – has worsened even further. The impact of COVID-19 is dramatic for countries across Latin America and the Caribbean. And it has pushed the Venezuelans hosted there, already living a precarious existence, into a spiral of poverty and despair.
Most strive to make a living in poor urban areas. Efforts to document and integrate them helped many find work - for 80% of them in the informal sector, as day labourers, petty traders, domestic workers. This is why lockdown measures - necessary to preserve public health - are plunging them at the same time into poverty. Sources of income vanish overnight, and hundreds of thousands – especially those without papers – are left unable to pay rent, buy food, or obtain medicine. Many are forced onto the streets, exposing the most vulnerable, and especially women and including children, to grave exploitation risks. Some resort to begging and survival sex. Xenophobia and discrimination rise.
As a result, thousands feel compelled to return to Venezuela. And for many, this is a choice driven by their inability to achieve security and gain the means to survive. Their desperation signals the urgent need for humanitarian assistance, and most of all, quick-impact support to livelihoods. At the same time, inside Venezuela, and within the framework of the Humanitarian Country Team, more support is required to strengthen community-based operations, particularly in border areas, and to scale up the humanitarian aid for returnees.
For too long countries hosting Venezuelan refugees and migrants have shouldered this responsibility with little help. Many are pursuing inclusive policies – continuing to host Venezuelans and making them part of their COVID response. They urgently need more backing – especially from international financial institutions and development partners. As they work to reactivate their economies, they must be supported to take full advantage of the resilience and skills of Venezuelans.
IN SPANISH: En conclusión, hoy tenemos una gran oportunidad de marcar la diferencia y movilizar recursos adicionales para atender a millones de refugiados y migrantes de Venezuela y para demostrar nuestra solidaridad con las comunidades que los acogen
Muchas gracias, Thank you.