Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, movements of refugees and migrants from Venezuela continued to take place in the region. Since April 2020, it is estimated that over 135,000 refugees and migrants from Venezuela have returned to their place of origin due to their precarious situations and the loss of livelihoods caused by restrictions adopted by states to counter the spread of the COVID-19. The large majority of those returned to Venezuela through Colombia. Recent estimates from the Government of Colombia, however, state that some 200,000 Venezuelans may re-enter the country in the coming months.
In addition, according to Colombian authorities, approximately 300 people enter the country daily through non-formal border crossings (also known as “trochas”) in the Department of Norte de Santander. The Regional Platform, together with national/sub-regional Platforms, Sectors and R4V partners, is monitoring the situation and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on movements of refugees and migrants from Venezuela.
The Regional Platform, together with all national/sub-regional Platforms, Sectors and R4V partners, worked on the new Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) for 2021. The plan builds on the Review of the RMRP 2020 (COVID-19) that was developed in May 2020 and mainstreams COVID-19-related needs and response strategies in 17 countries of the region. So far in 2020, R4V partners assisted some 2.2 million refugees, migrants and host community members with assistance, including activities that mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Brazil, R4V partners released a Monitoring of Returns of Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants Report, highlighting the preliminary results (as of August 2020) of R4V partners’ joint border monitoring. The assessment provides an overview of the profiles and intentions of refugees and migrants returning from Brazil to Venezuela, as well as the main causes of these flows which are linked to the measures adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic. R4V partners offered a fundraising training for small-scale organizations. The capacity building initiative is part of an effort to strengthen the institutional capacities, autonomy and sustainability of civil society partners that work in response to refugees and migrants from Venezuela, including the COVID-19 response.
R4V partners in Chile continued to deliver humanitarian assistance to refugees and migrants from Venezuela and assessed the situation of "caminantes" in the northern regions, delivering humanitarian assistance and providing orientation. A ministerial meeting with the participation of the Group of Friends of the Quito Process was organized by Chile as Presidency pro tempore on 19 October to discuss the main agreements of the technical meeting held in Santiago on 24-25 September.
In Colombia, the local GIFMMs (Grupos Interagenciales sobre Flujos Migratorios Mixtos) are adapting operations in preparation for an eventual, gradual re-opening of borders after the temporary closure during the COVID-19 pandemic and in anticipation of greater outflows from Venezuela over the coming weeks and months. Local GIFMMs collected local inputs for contingency plans and coordinated inter-sectoral assistance in WASH, shelter, food security (including food rations and vouchers), nutrition recovery strategies for children under 5 and pregnant/lactating women, hygiene promotion activities,
COVID-19-prevention-related activities (including WASH adaptations), delivery of NFIs, delivery of school kits and pedagogic guides, income generation workshops and support, and cash assistance for rent, targeting vulnerable refugees and migrants.
In Ecuador, the Grupo de Trabajo sobre Personas Refugiadas y Migrantes (GTRM) prioritized access to public education and school permanence as many Venezuelan families noted not being able to keep their children in school due to a lack of resources for educational materials or equipment. In addition, R4V partners prioritized the delivery of multipurpose cash transfers as one of the main strategies of GTRM partners in order to assist refugees and migrants to meet some of their basic needs. While some COVID-19 related restrictions were gradually lifted, with borders to Colombia and Peru remaining closed, many to continue crossing through informal points. The GTRM worked on increasing the possibilities for refugees and migrants to access the formal labour market, migratory regularization and credit options, and partners at the northern border coordinated with local governments to reinforce the provision of shelter and WASH.