Photo: Dylan Baddour
Migration has always existed and will always exist. It’s a constant phenomenon and a right for those who decide so. In the case of the Americas, there were important challenges in 2018 regarding migration flows: from Nicaraguans fleeing repression in their country and migrating to neighboring Costa Rica, the families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, to the Central Americans who assembled in their Caravana Migrante to show the world that the challenges of displacement and the lack of opportunities in their country of origin is something that concerns all countries and not only the country of origin. However, the exodus of Venezuelans as a result of the economic, social, political and humanitarian crises in the country was the main migratory challenge in 2018, and it will continue to be so as new waves of displaced Venezuelans arrive to countries in the region
Check out the key milestones of 2018 regarding Venezuelan migration. What were the numbers? What were the policy responses that are worth highlighting? What were the key decisions made by the international community to address the Venezuelan migrant and refugee crisis in 2018?
- A hyperinflation of asylum seekers in the making. The year starts with an increase of 20,500% in the number of asylum seeking applications. According to data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the asylum applications by Venezuelans went from 505 in 2012 to 103,955 at the end of 2017.
- Consultores 21 produces their report accounting for Venezuelan migrants. According to their report, there are already 4 million Venezuelans in the diaspora.
- The Argentinean migration agency, the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones, reports that 363 Venezuelans enter the country each day. According to official records, from 2017 to early 2018, the number of permanent residency requests from Venezuelans in Argentina grew by 142%.
- President Temer of Brazil declares a State of emergency in the northern State of Roraima due to the rapid increase in the arrival of Venezuelans. The measure declares a “social emergency” and allows the disbursement of funds to support the provision of services. It also allows the deployment of the military to manage the emergency. A field hospital is also installed, and UNHCR establishes shelters for the displaced Venezuelan population. Around 40,000 Venezuelans are reported to have arrived to Roraima, equivalent to 10% of the state’s population.
- President Santos of Colombia approves a decree mandating the Registro Administrativo de Migrantes Venezolanos (RAMV), which would allow the government to have more information on the number and profile of Venezuelan migrants in the country. The information collected would be used to support the formulation and design of an integral public policy for the humanitarian assistance of the displaced populations.
- The Inter American Commission on Human Rights (ICHR) approves Resolution 2/2018 “Forced Migration of Venezuelans”. With this resolution, the IACHR provides recommendations on the most effective responses to ensure the human rights of forcibly displaced Venezuelans.
- The UN Refugee Agency produces an “Orientation Note to address Venezuelan flows”, by which countries are given guidelines on how best to address key challenges, namely regularization, access to basic rights (medical services, education, family unity, freedom of circulation, shelter and to work), and respect for the right to non-refoulement (or no return to Venezuela, given social, economic, and political conditions).
- The UN Migration Agency launches the first Regional Action Plan to strengthen the response to Venezuelan outflows.
- Colombia starts the Registro Administrativo de Migrantes Venezolanos (RAMV) on April 6, 2018.
- President Piñera of Chile announces the Visa de Responsabilidad Democrática, specifically for Venezuelans wishing to migrate to Chile. The visa, however, forces Venezuelans to process the visa in Venezuela only, and eliminates the possibility of arriving to Chile (with a tourist visa, for instance) and regularizing their status while in the country.
- The UN Agency for Migration announces an overall increase in the number of Venezuelans arriving to South American countries, among them, Colombia, Brasil, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Perú and Uruguay become the main destination countries. A report by the same agency documents the general profile of the Venezuelan migrant by then: the average age of Venezuelan migrants is 31 years old, on average 58% are men, 56% reported being single, and more than 75% have achieved some educational level.
- Colombia concludes the RAMV on June 8. The registry documents the presence in Colombian territory of 819,034 Venezuelans, of which 376,572 are regular and 442,462 are under an irregular status.
- Chile sees an increase in the arrival of Venezuelans. By July, there are more than 147,000 Venezuelans in the country. The highest number reported had been 177,000, the total number recorded for the whole of 2017.
- As we wait for the final results of the RAMV, Colombia reports that around 870,000 Venezuelans have arrived to the country and have stayed there as regular migrants, in the process of regularizing their status and with irregular status. This represents a 58% increase in the numbers compared to 2017.
- Brazil announces their “Interiorization” plan by which Venezuelan migrants and refugees would be moved from Roraima State (their first point of entry into the country) to other states in the Federation with more robust labor markets. This is with the purpose of ensuring a more effective social and labor inclusion for Venezuelans.
- Decree number 1288 on August 2, 2018 is signed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. With this decree, the Permiso Especial de Permanencia (PEP, or Special Permanence Permit) becomes the way to regularize 442,462 Venezuelans who were in the country irregularly, as reported by the RAMV. The decree also adds protections for Colombians who are coming back to their homeland after having lived years in Venezuela.
- Secretary General Luis Almagro calls an extraordinary meeting of the OAS Permanent Council “to consider the migration crisis originated by the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”
- As the surge of Venezuelan migrants and refugees increases, Ecuador and Peru changed passport requirements. Whereas Venezuelans were not required to enter these two countries with a passport (cédulas de identidad sufficed), new decisions require them to present a passport upon entering Ecuadorian and Peruvian territory.
- Ecuador calls on a regional meeting to collectively address the massive Venezuelan flows, and to coordinate responses. Thirteen countries are invited. Ecuador leaves ALBA amidst the Venezuelan migratory crisis.
- Peru declares a state of emergency in the border zone with Ecuador due to the surge in arrivals of Venezuelans at the border. The key concern is to control outbreaks of diseases and ensuring proper medical services to Venezuelans.
- The government of Ecuador also declares a “state of emergency in the human mobility sector” to address the massive flows of Venezuelans. By then, it’s reported that 4,200 Venezuelans arrive to Ecuador per day.
- Secretary General Almagro establishes a Working Group to Address the Venezuelan Migrant and Refugee Crisis at the Organization of American States.
- UNHCR and IOM appoint Mr. Eduardo Stein, former Vice President of Guatemala, and former Foreign Minister, as Joint Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the region. His mandate is to promote dialogue and consensus necessary for the humanitarian response, including access to territory, refugee protection, legal stay arrangements and the identification of solutions for Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
- Ecuador holds the first regional meeting on Human Mobility of Venezuelans, also known as Quito I. At this meeting, participating countries agree to flex the passport requirement. A Declaration of Intent attempts to facilitate Venezuelan migrants and refugees’ arrival to their countries.
- The Superintendence of Migration in Peru accepts requests by Venezuelans for the Permiso Temporal de Permanencia (PTP) until October 31. Those who enter Peruvian territory after that date will have to consider alternative regularization options.
- The number of Venezuelans crossing the border city of Tumbes (with Ecuador) reaches 6,700 on the Sunday preceding October 31. The highest number previously recorded was 5,190, when passport requirements were temporarily changed by Peru.
- UNHCR and IOM announce that the number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela worldwide has reached 3 million.
- Ecuador holds a second regional meeting on Human Mobility of Venezuelans, also known as Quito II. A Work Plan is agreed upon whereby participating countries commit to continue providing solutions to the arrival of Venezuelans to their countries.
- Migración Colombia announces that all Venezuelans who entered Colombia by December 17, 2018 with a stamped passport will be able to process the PEP or Permiso Especial de Permanencia. This measure would benefit around 300,000 Venezuelans who entered the country via a migration authority office and would allow them to study, work, and live in Colombia.
- The United Nations launches the Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP), the first of its kind in the Americas, which provides an operational blueprint, coordination template and strategy for responding to the needs of displaced Venezuelans and the communities receiving them. The estimated cost of the response plan was announced to be 738 million dollars to target 2.7 million people in 16 countries, 2.2 million of them Venezuelans and 500,000 people in host communities.
- Migración Colombia announces the Permiso de Tránsito Temporal by which all Venezuelans in transit to other South American countries via Colombia can register their stay. This allows for an orderly, safe, and regular migratory process that benefits Colombia and Venezuelans.
- In the United States, three Democratic Senators and one Republican introduce the Venezuela Temporary Protected Status and Asylum Assistance Act of 2018. With the proposed measure, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was joined by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to support a bipartisan legislation seeking to grant Temporary Protected Status for eligible Venezuelans fleeing the dire conditions in their home country and to provide support for migration systems in the countries surrounding Venezuela. Venezuela tops the list of countries with the highest number of asylum seeking applications in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center. Venezuelan nationals also account for the highest overstay rate among Hispanic non-immigrants admitted to the U.S. South Florida has one of the biggest communities of expats.
- A hyperinflation of asylum seekers takes hold. According to data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the asylum applications by Venezuelans went from 505 in 2012 to 375,174 (as of Nov 2018), an increase of 74,191%.
And these are some estimates of how we close the year in terms of Venezuelans expats:
As many countries of the region take emergency measures to address the massive flows of Venezuelans, and recur to the international community for more financial resources for health, food, shelter and other costs to stabilize the Venezuelan displaced population, we cannot lose the sense of urgency in terms of addressing the root causes of this migratory crisis, and its regional effects.
This cannot become the new normal for Venezuelans, and the international community.
As we close the year, let us not forget that these are human lives that are at stake, people who have forcibly been separated from their nation, their origins, their families and loved ones.