International Solidarity Conference on the Venezuelan Refugee and Migrant Crisis: international support is necessary

On October 28th and 29th the European Union, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) met in Brussels for the International Conference on Solidarity Venezuelan Refugee and Migrant Crisis. Tinou-Paï Blanc, Emergency Officer at Première Urgence Internationale, took part to the conference.

Why was the challenge of this conference?

As Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, recalled during the conference, Venezuela has become the epicenter of the largest and fastest demographic exodus in recent history of Latin America, and one of the world’s largest displacement crises. Yet it is also one of the least funded humanitarian crises.

Indeed, it is a dramatic and multidimensional crisis, which has driven 4.5 million people to flee Venezuela for the past four years due to political instability, growing insecurity, Human rights violations and the economic collapse of the country.

Given the scale of this crisis and its dramatic consequences for Venezuelans and countries in the region, I thought it very important to participate in this conference to highlight our support for Latin America as a French NGO.

Since January 2019, the Première Urgence Internationale teams have been following the arrival of Venezuelans in Colombia. Subjected to this massive influx of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, the budgets of the host countries (Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and the Central American countries) are at the limit of their possibilities – their resources diminish, and their institutions and infrastructure are strained.

What are the objectives achieved during this conference?

The first objective of this conference, which has been achieved, has surely been to remind the international community of the extent of the crisis and put it back on the priorities of the European political agenda.

Historically France and Europe have always had a closer look towards Africa and the Middle East than Latin America. But in terms of numbers of migrants and refugees, this is the biggest crisis in modern history in Latin America, with a forecast of 6.5 million refugees at the end of 2020, a crisis that is neglected and underfunded.

Another success of this conference was to bring together the representatives of the Governments of Latin America, IOM, UNHCR and the European Union with NGOs, donors and representatives of civil society, and agree on a common speech.

“Urgency”, “breadth” and “necessary funds”, “help to Venezuelans in and to the host populations”, are the key words with the general consensus.

Another positive point, and not negligible, is the fact that the needs of the host countries were listened to: Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil.

As UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi has pointed out, “For years South Americans have opened their homes and hearts and have shown solidarity. More than 2 million asylum applications have been granted. Venezuelans are not in camps but integrated in cities. Colombia’s example of granting “citizenship” is the most generous example of this social integration. But this country is itself in a social crisis. More international support is needed. ”

And what were the points raised by NGOs?

The NGOs recalled the vulnerability of Venezuelans deprived of food, drinking water and access to essential services for several years, and the growth of their precariousness as “Caminantes”. During the hundreds of kilometers they cover on foot to reach urban centers, they face numerous abuses and are victims of human trafficking and violence (including sexual violence). The priority sectors identified by the host countries are health, protection, education and socio-economic integration.

Pending a political solution to put an end to this multidimensional crisis (political, economic, security, humanitarian, human rights), the actors present at this conference insisted on the urgency to respond to this humanitarian crisis. Providing assistance to Venezuelans (within the country), on the roads of exile and in the host countries. Several EU countries and the United States have announced more than 100 million euros ($ 110 million) in donations to help cope with the crisis and called on other donors to take part in this crisis.

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