2019 Migration Year in Review

Venezuelan migration is today the largest displacement crisis the Americas has ever seen, and globally the second largest after Syria’s. The predictions for 2019 became true: there are now at least 4.7 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees in the world

The New York Times retrieved

Photo: The New York Times retrieved

For the second year in a row, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a Washington DC-based think tank specializing on migration issues, placed the Venezuelan migration crisis as number one in their annual countdown of the Top 10 migration issues of the year. It has also been at the center of conversations in the UN system, the European Union, and at the Organization of American States.

2019 numbers indicate that 4,769,498 million Venezuelans left the country in the last few years.

The volume of people moving compare only to Syria, which now has 6.7 million refugees. Some indicate that by 2020, we may see the Venezuelan migrant crisis match Syria levels.

As we continue to see Venezuelans moving to other countries, we now know that things will never be the same for the country. Neither for our people who now live abroad. What happened in 2019? Where are Venezuelan migrants and refugees? How did countries and the international community respond to this huge challenge for the region and the world? These are some of the key issues around Venezuelan migration that happened in 2019.


2019 started with big news. The Organization of American States (OAS) decided “not to recognize the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro’s new term as of the 10th of January, 2019.” The resolution was approved with 19 votes in favor, 6 against, 8 abstentions and one absent. With this, and with Juan Guaidó assuming the Interim Presidency of Venezuela, countries started to progressively recognize Guaidó as the legitimate counterpart, and the conversation regarding the acceptance of Venezuelans’ expired passports by countries recognizing Guaidó also started. 

Diana Carolina, an Ecuadorian woman in the town of Ibarra, Ecuador fell victim to gender violence. Her partner was a Colombian-Venezuelan migrant. Unfortunately, the discussion centered around xenophobia against migrants and not the real issue: gender violence against women. 


On February 23, opposition leaders including Interim President Juan Guaidó, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, and the presidents of Colombia, Chile, and Paraguay gathered in Cucuta for the Venezuela Live Aid concert, and to support international efforts to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela


The Venezuelan NGO, CEPAZ, published the only thorough and specific analysis of the situation of Venezuelan migrant women. The specific challenges migrant women face were spelled out in the report, and policy proposals mapped out. 


The United Nations openly acknowledged the scale of the humanitarian problem in Venezuela, characterizing it as “significant and growing.” The UN warned that as much as 25 %, or 7 million Venezuelans, were at the time in need of humanitarian assistance.

Nine countries, i.e. Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú y Venezuela, participating in the so-called Quito Process met and approved a Joint Declaration of the III International Technical Meeting on Human Mobility of Venezuelan Citizens in the Region. 


On May 21, the National Assembly published a decree signed by Interim President Juan Guaidó to extend the validity of Venezuelan passports for an additional five years past their printed date of expiration.


In the framework of the 49th OAS General Assembly in Medellín, the OAS presented its Report on Venezuelan Migration that analyzes the unprecedented crisis of Venezuelan migrants and refugees in the region.

The US Government decided to recognize the validity of Venezuelan passports for five years beyond their printed expiration dates.

On Jun 13, the President of Peru announced that as of June 15, Venezuelans would be required to show valid passports and acquire a humanitarian visa.


Ecuador approved a measure requiring a Humanitarian Visa for Venezuelan citizens. Among other measures, a migratory amnesty was approved to protect Venezuelans who were already in irregular status.

The IV Meeting of the Quito process took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the meeting, participating countries agreed to a road map for the integration of Venezuelans. 


Showing solidarity with the most vulnerable, and as covered here at Caracas Chronicles, Colombia granted citizenship to children born in Colombia of Venezuelan parents. The measure would protect children born in Colombia since 2015 and two years after the approval of the measure, namely, until August 2021. 

The International Migration Organization (IOM) divulged their Missing Migrants Project numbers. According to the report, Venezuelans were second only to the “Unknown” category, with 178 victims, as the most counted nationality.  

Ministers of Health of 10 countries of the region gathered in Colombia agreed to produce a Regional Vaccination Card, to register Venezuelan migrants and refugees’ vaccination records.


The European Union called a Solidarity Conference in Brussels. The conference raised around $133 million.  

Social media videos started to document assaults, attacks, threats and harassment against Venezuelan migrants.  

A map was published marking the deaths of dozens of Venezuelan migrant women throughout the world.


The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched the 2020 Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) to raise $1.35 billion, which will be funneled to more than 130 organizations assisting Venezuelan migrants and host communities. 


The year closed with predictions that, if trends continue, as much as 6.5 million Venezuelans could be living abroad by the end of 2020

More cases of xenophobia and discrimination started to occur in receiving countries facing the brunt of the migrant arrivals. According to UN sources, around 46.9% of Venezuelan migrants have recently felt discrimination, up from 36.9% at the beginning of 2019

** The views are personal. They do not represent those of the Organization of American States (OAS).