As the current situation both within, and outside, Venezuela continues to deteriorate, Jesuit Refugee Service Latin America/Caribbean and Jesuit Refugee Service/USA join together in urging the international community to ensure that the critical protection and humanitarian needs of millions of Venezuelans are guaranteed.
Current figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimate that there are 3.4 million displaced Venezuelans and that asylum applications by Venezuelans have soared to over 400,000. As long as the political, institutional, and humanitarian crisis afflicting Venezuela persists, the numbers will continue to rise.
JRS is working to uphold its mission to protect these refugees and migrants in Venezuela and throughout Latin America, including a binational project that focuses on the accompaniment of those with the greatest needs at border crossings in Venezuela and Colombia.
We urge national, regional and international governments to uphold the protection of Venezuelan refugees and migrants through the following crucial measures:
- Maintain open borders and legal entry points to prevent refugees and migrants from crossing via unauthorized means, leaving them vulnerable to recruitment and exploitation by criminal gangs.
- Support host countries with technical and financial resources that allow them to improve their entry and processing systems, so that they can effectively manage migration flows.
- Support host communities in efforts to facilitate pathways to legal entry that promote the regularization and integration of migrants, including coordinated and transparent processes for entry that respect the dignity and human rights of those seeing protection.
- Apply the Cartagena Declaration of 1984 to requests for asylum and refugee status by Venezuelans currently fleeing their country.
- Ensure that countries refrain from using aid for any non-humanitarian ends and reject the criminalization of humanitarian workers, to avoid further negative consequences for the recipients of aid.
- Maintain a robust humanitarian response to meet the needs of those affected, both inside Venezuela and in transit and host countries, including access to food, shelter and adequate education and health services.
- Place a special focus on the particular needs of vulnerable groups including unaccompanied minors, separated children, pregnant women, single mothers, the elderly, indigenous ethnic groups, and those with disabilities.
- Ensure that programs recognize, and work to counter, any rising xenophobia and increase in sexual exploitation or gender-based violence.
As the humanitarian emergency in Venezuela continues to grow, the need for a coordinated international response only increases. We must uphold the protection of Venezuelan refugees and migrants by following through on these important efforts.
Through the continued collaboration of state governments, civil society, and the migrants and refugees themselves, it will be possible to improve the living conditions for thousands of these displaced persons towards a more peaceful and stable future.