Do more for Venezuelans and their hosts | Journalist
Can you imagine walking more than 1,000 kilometers with your children and a suitcase of personal effects? It is the marathon journey that many Venezuelan refugees and migrants have taken as they fled the crisis afflicting their country to reach a refuge in other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
It is the second largest displacement crisis in the world after Syria. With more than 5.6 million people affected, the Venezuelan exodus is equivalent to the influx of people from Denmark to the rest of Europe. But this crisis goes largely unnoticed and unreported in the rest of the world.
The pandemic has added even greater challenges, increasing the many risks Venezuelans face when trying to find safety. Long lockdowns cripple attempts by refugees and migrants to find jobs. In particular, women and girls are exposed to even greater risks of exploitation and xenophobia. Moreover, the impact of the pandemic is not only on refugees and migrants; across the region, local communities are suffering greatly.
Despite the current challenges, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have quietly but generously sought to rise to the challenge, responding to needs and engaging in social and economic integration. Host countries are doing all they can to give their Venezuelan brothers and sisters a life of dignity. Some have already granted legal status to displaced people, so that they can access health and education services, housing and legal work.
Above all, during the pandemic, many were included in national vaccination campaigns against Covid-19. We have seen bold and courageous initiatives to protect millions of irregular migrants. However, these efforts are overwhelming the region and they need help.
As host countries attempt to shoulder this massive responsibility, international support for this crisis is insufficient. Last year’s United Nations fundraising appeal received only half of the financial need to help those in need. The pandemic has captured the world’s attention and resources so much that it has eclipsed this crisis.
The international community must do more. The cost of not acting now would endanger regional stability. In addition, a large number of unvaccinated refugees and migrants would exacerbate the severe health and economic crisis in the region.
If we put the right conditions together, this crisis could turn into an opportunity. Venezuelans bring skills, knowledge and entrepreneurship that can help strengthen the region’s post-Covid-19 economic recovery.
This is why Canada, in the footsteps of the European Union and Spain’s 2020 conference, is organizing a high-level virtual international donor conference in solidarity with Venezuelan refugees and migrants, in collaboration with the top -United Nations Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.
We want to make people aware of the enormous impact of this crisis and the burden mainly borne by the host countries in the region. We must create nothing less than a sense of urgency for governments outside the region, multilateral organizations, international financial institutions, the private sector and civil society to show solidarity.
It’s time to let Venezuelan refugees, migrants and their hosts know that the world cares.
—The following have contributed
to this article: Josep Borrell,
High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President,
Arancha González Laya, Minister
foreign affairs, European
Union and Cooperation, Spain;
Karina Gould, Minister of
international development, Canada.
—AUTHOR is the UNHCR-IOM Joint Special Representative for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants.