Over 1.5 million estimated Venezuelans displaced in the region
2,000% Increase in asylum claims since 2014
Nine UNHCR operations covered by this appeal
The situation evolving in Venezuela, a country that has traditionally been a generous host to thousands of refugees and third country nationals from the region and other parts of the world, has led to large outflows of its citizens and other residents into the region and beyond. Whilst it is evident not all the Venezuelans leaving their country are prompted to do so for refugee-related reasons, it is becoming increasingly clear that a significant number are indeed in need of international protection.
In many of the destination countries of the region, Venezuelans are only able to regularize their status or legalize their stay either under the pertinent national immigration and other legal frameworks, or under relevant regional mechanisms. In light of the extraordinary situation, some of these countries have established special mechanisms to facilitate various forms of regularization and even protection, what is otherwise referred to as "other forms of protection or alternative legal status". At the same time, both within and outside the region, an increasing number of Venezuelans, now some 146,500, have applied for asylum and formal recognition and protection as refugees.
To varying degrees, they can access relevant national services, including health care, education and even social security. However, across the region, many Venezuelans remain unable to secure their status and/or stay under any of these frameworks or mechanisms. They thus find themselves in an irregular situation, without any documentation, access to legal and other rights or basic services, and are exposed to exploitation, abuse, manipulation and a wide range of other protection risks including racism, discrimination and xenophobia. Those whose departure was prompted by the need for protection are particularly vulnerable.
In May 2017, as the arrival of Venezuelans in neighbouring countries spiralled and the embedded protection and other humanitarian needs became more visible, UNHCR stepped up its preparedness and operational activities to respond to the needs. It is working with the concerned Governments in further elaborating, developing and enhancing asylum and refugee management systems, combatting protection risks, meeting basic needs and fostering opportunities for solutions. Obviously, this has to be done in ways which, at the same time, maximize in a pragmatic manner the benefits that can be drawn from the alternative frameworks or special mechanisms while also addressing appropriately other needs which are inextricably "mixed" with those of the refugees.
Notably, thousands of nationals of some of the destination countries who have been resident in Venezuela have also returned to their countries along with the departing Venezuelans. Moreover, even those Venezuelans whose departure may not have been prompted by refugee-related reasons can still face acute legal or humanitarian risks.
This Supplementary Appeal contains UNHCR's initial requirements for its response to what is referred to as the "Venezuela Situation" in the eight countries and the sub-region most affected by this situation. While it is launched at this stage as a UNHCR Supplementary Appeal, the UNHCR response reflected herein has been developed and will be fostered in close coordination and collaboration with other actors, most notably the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
UNHCR is also interfacing its plans and responses appropriately with broader humanitarian, social and development initiatives at country and regional levels to enhance efficiency, effectiveness and the search for solutions.