Curaçao is one of the countries most impacted by displacement globally proportional to the local population, with 1 out of 10 people on the island estimated to be Venezuelan. Estimates are that 17,000 Venezuelan refugees and migrants will be present in Curaçao at the end of 2020, increasing to 22,000 by December 2021.
While most arrived in Curaçao through a formal visa or initial permit, many overstayed a visa or permit, and are consequently irregular in the country. Some arrive by boat through irregular migratory pathways, exposing themselves to dangerous sea journeys and serious protection risks. Many struggle to regularize their stay and risk abuse, sexual and other forms of exploitation and detention.
Ignorance of legislation and legal procedures often prevent Venezuelans from seeking protection. Lack of documentation and legal status hinder Venezuelans’ access to basic services such as healthcare and prevent them from accessing formal employment and livelihood opportunities. They are excluded from public social programmes except for COVID19-specific food assistance. Other obstacles to education and other services include language barriers, xenophobia, lack of information, and associated costs, including for private insurance and transportation.
Curaçao has been heavily economically impacted by COVID-19, due to its economic reliance on tourism and the collapse of the oil refinery industry. Preventative pandemic measures continue affecting Venezuelans who rely on tourism for income and are vastly undocumented and thus excluded from government social support mechanisms. Venezuelans have become increasingly vulnerable, and basic needs such as food, NFIs, medicines and shelter are in higher demand, escalating protection risks. Long-lasting economic impacts on Venezuelan refugees and migrants are anticipated. Considering Curaçao’s small size and limited absorption capacity, increased focus is placed on integration, prioritizing peaceful co-existence and self-reliance through social cohesion campaigns and livelihood opportunities for Venezuelans.