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Venezuelan migrant and refugee Venezuelan crisis: IOM regional response overview (April - June 2020)

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A Better Future

Gustavo Castro del Mar, 69 years old, is a chef, welder, and artist; three talents that have given him the strength to start a new life. Gustavo left Venezuela, headed to Ecuador. While transiting through Colombia, Gustavo painted a mural on a Migrant Transitory Assistance Center (CATM), where he received food, shelter, and medical assistance. When interviewed Gustavo stated, “It is not time to cry or feel regret, it is time to fight and find a better future.”


The Latin America and Caribbean region continue to suffer from a severe COVID-19 outbreak, with no end in sight to the first wave of infections and severe economic downturn. The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on the socioeconomic well-being and health of the region’s population, especially among the most vulnerable including migrants and refugees from Venezuela.

Measures imposed by governments in the region, such as border closures, were justified to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, these closures and other measures put in place have severely affected Venezuelan migrants and refugees. While each country faces distinct challenges, there is an overall need to support governments with COVID-19 responses. IOM ensures highly vulnerable migrant populations are not left behind by strengthening institutional capacity, increasing the absorption capacity of the communities in term of basic services, and promoting livelihood and economic opportunities.

Within the region, Venezuelan refugees and migrants have relied predominantly on the informal economy for income generation and their survival. An overall decrease in economic activity due to COVID-19 containment measures has resulted in massive job loss for migrants, placing them at risk of eviction, hunger, and exploitation. In addition, the most vulnerable migrant populations have been deeply affected by xenophobia and discrimination, which has exacerbated their vulnerabilities and could lead towards negative survival strategies. In addition, migrants and indigenous communities living near the borders are particularly vulnerable to disease outbreaks, given the crowded living conditions. All these factors have led to some voluntary returns to Venezuela. As borders remain closed, to contain the spread of COVID-19, irregular entries and exits of refugees and migrants continue to be reported.

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