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Americas: Population Movement Emergency Appeal n° MDR42004 - Operations Update no. 1, 1 February 2019

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Description of the disaster

By December of 2019, an estimated 5.3 million Venezuelans would have left the country, migrating in search of opportunities, health services and an overall search to improve the socio-economic conditions of themselves and their families. This is the largest migration in the history of the Americas. Migrants are one of the most vulnerable populations, exposed to human trafficking, abuse, exploitation and violence.

This Emergency Appeal seeks funds to reach this vulnerable population through a range of services that are aimed at preserving the dignity of migrant populations and increasing their wellbeing. These services are: shelter; livelihoods and basic needs; health services; water, sanitation and hygiene services; protection gender and inclusion. The appeal also looks to reinforce the capacities of the National Societies and volunteers that provide services to the migrant population. According to UNHCR, over three million people have fled to other countries in the Americas by air, by land or by boat, over 5,000 people per day are crossing different types of borders. Due to the current situation, each country has responded according to their capacity levels and different resources based in the needs of the population.

Brief descriptions of the current situation in each of the countries participating in the regional emergency appeal are below:


With the increased numbers of migrant persons, there is a national emergency. The expected number of migrant persons has not changed from the forecasted number, however there is a clear difference in the access points, from having 80% of migrants coming through airports, now up to 50% of migrant persons entering the country through land, mainly the frontier in Jujuy and Foz Iguazu. The profile of the migrant persons has also changed, from 78% of Venezuelan migrants entering the country with undergraduate levels of education, most new migrants do have studies nor previous employment in their country of origin. There is also an increase in nuclear families entering the country, augmenting the need to provide services for accompanied minors along the migration route. The needs remain mainly on shelter, health services access and there has been a great increase on the needs for Restoring Family Links (RFL). The ministry of international relations of Argentina states that there are currently 130,000 migrants and refugees from Venezuela registered in the country


Brazil shares a 2,199 kilometres border with Venezuela, and over 150,000 Venezuelans have entered the country through the remote northern state of Roraima. More than 65,000 have requested asylum. Since April 2018, around 3,000 Venezuelans have been transferred by the Brazilian Government from the border areas to cities such as Sao Paulo and Brasilia, where the expectation is that there are more job opportunities for the migrant persons. Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro announced on January 2019 that Brazil will leave the United Nations migration accord that was signed on December 2018.


The migration route through Ecuador from the northern frontier through the southern frontier continues. There are two variants in this route: (i) those that pass from the Venezuela frontier and cross the country towards another without staying; (ii) those who stay in cities along the route because they take several days to get to the other frontier It is estimated that around 1 million Venezuelan nationals entered the country last year, reaching its most critical point on April 2018 when 4,000 persons per day entered the country. There’s been an increase in migrant populations in urban areas such as Quito, Guayaquil, Manta, Ambato, Santo Domingo, Ibarra, among others. On 19 January 2019, a Venezuelan immigrant stabbed a pregnant Ecuadorian woman to death in the city of Ibarra. The dissemination of a video of said incident caused a national outrage. Which led t Ecuadorian nationals in the city of Ibarra to attack Venezuelans, breaking into their homes and burning their possessions. Xenophobia sentiments have increased, and Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno has announced that immigration controls will be tightened.


The Guyanese government will open a help centre for migrants in the next months to provide health services, including vaccinations and orientation to Venezuelan migrants. The support centre will be located in Charity, a small township located in the Pomeroon-Supenaam region, where many Venezuelans cross to Guyana. There are increasing tensions between the border dispute of Venezuela and Guyana, due to oil exploration in the zone. A Venezuelan Navy interrupted the path of a vessel for seismic surveying on December 22, 2018. However, this incident has not affected the attention provided to Venezuelan migrants as of January 2019. An estimated 24,000 Venezuelans are living in the country, with a greater number of them going back and forth between Guyana and Venezuela because they have access to public health care and their children can attend school in Guyana for the most part, albeit some Venezuelan children face barriers because they do not speak English. In addition, the Guyanese government has granted Venezuelans tourist visas to stay for a period of three months.


Panama is still a main destination for Venezuelans. The Panamanian government has imposed restrictive measures for the entrance of Venezuelans, this has not stopped the influx of migrant persons to the country. It has however decreased Venezuelan’s access to basic services and labour market, many migrants enter the informal labour market. There has been a noticeable shift in the types of Venezuelan migrants entering the country: before migrants would come into the country alone, now there are entire families traveling together. Adding to the situation of migrant children that have additional needs for protection. More than 76,000 Venezuelans have sought to remain legally in Panama as of March 2018 (in 2015, there were less than 10,000 Venezuelans in the country). The population of Venezuelan migrants has moved inside the country from big cities to less populated areas due to high costs, especially in Panama City. In addition, Panama has had an influx of other migrants, especially extra continental migrants, who enter via informal, highly dangerous migratory routes on their journey north. Additionally, the internal tension in Nicaragua could impact the migratory situation in Panama.


An estimated 700,000 Venezuelans are living in Peru, it is still the second most popular destination in South America for Venezuelans after Colombia. Of this group there are 128,000 Venezuelans with a temporary resident permit and 221,000 in process of obtaining this permit. Although the government has given temporary legal status to Venezuelan migrants, they still have limited access to basic services such as health, and education and the labour market. According to the DTM-Peru (4 th Round) results at least 56% of the Venezuelan population surveyed have between 18 and 29 years old. The age group of persons over 60 years old represented less than 5%, showcasing that elderly persons are mobilizing less than younger persons. According to the same survey 46% of the persons suffered discrimination before reaching Tumbes and 73% persons suffered from chronical illness that require medication.

Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago are located at 7 miles of the coast of Venezuela, and with its population of 1,200,000 and 40,000 Venezuelan migrants, is the country with the biggest proportion of migrants according to its population. According to the DTM-Peru survey 46% of the persons suffered discrimination before reaching Tumbes and 73% persons suffered from chronical illness that require medication. Some of the major challenges posed by the large influx of Venezuelans include international protection and physical security considerations, health services, lack of documentation, sexual and genderbased violence, exploitation and abuse, and lack of access to basic rights and services (UNHCR, 2017). Without refugee status determination (RSD) and similar mechanisms, asylum seekers and refugees do not have the legal right to work, to receive a public-school education or to drive vehicles in Trinidad and Tobago. The Venezuelan asylum seekers continue to experience stigma and discrimination, with acts of resentment regarding employment and access to health services further threatening their security.


Recent official figures indicate that there are at least 10,000 Venezuelan in Uruguay, making it a destination country for Venezuelans. Although the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR for its acronym in Spanish) suspended Venezuela, the Uruguayan government has provided Venezuelan migrants with access to the labour market and basis services; however, the increasing number of migrants requires support from other actors to attend their specific needs. The main challenges for the migrant persons are access to shelter, information on health and other services and economic vulnerability.

Overall, there is no indication that the influx of Venezuelans to other regional countries will slow any time soon, which will overwhelm the host countries limited local and national capacities.