In a meeting of the Austrian Ministerial Council today, the government approved a joint request by the Federal Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister to release two million euros’ worth of funding from Austria’s Foreign Disaster Fund (FDF) for projects in Venezuela and Colombia. The funds are intended to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the two Latin-American countries. Commenting on the Council’s decision, Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said:
The downward spiral of an increasingly deteriorating Venezuelan economy as a result of decades of socialist mismanagement has triggered the largest movement of refugees and economic migrants South America has seen in recent times. Austria is providing real support on the ground.
Venezuelans are suffering shortages of essential goods, and lack access to drinking water. More than 1.8 million have already fled across the border to neighbouring state Colombia,which is now directly affected by the crisis. A total of 5.4 million Venezuelans have already had to leave their homeland. At the same time, Colombia has also been dealing with difficulties of its own, including decades of internal conflict that have caused around 8.1 million Colombians to leave their homes and become internally displaced.
In addition to this humanitarian aid, Austria is also increasing its voluntary core contribution to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by 1.6 million euros, taking its total for 2021 to over 2.1 million euros.
As Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler explained:
By quadrupling its support for the UNHCR to over 2.1 million euros, the Austrian government is making a major contribution to the work of this global humanitarian organisation over the course of 2021. Most Venezuelan refugees have remained in the region, and today we have also approved two million euros’ worth of Austrian funding to assist them.
In his concluding remarks, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg noted that:
In many parts of the world, the pandemic is acting as a catalyst for what is already a very precarious situation for refugees. That is why we have decided to increase our contribution to the UNHCR to 2.1 million euros in 2021, to help fund its vital work.
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