PANAMA (HPD) — The flow of Venezuelan migrants and refugees in Latin America continues to grow and most face basic needs, according to a report released Wednesday by the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR.
Of the 5.96 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela hosted in 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, three quarters, 4.37 million, still face difficulties in accessing food, housing, health and stable employment.
The flow of migrants to North America through the dangerous jungle of Darién, on the border between Panama and Colombia, has also skyrocketed like never before, according to IOM and UNHCR, which issued an urgent call to the international community not to leave migrants alone. neighboring countries hosting the displaced.
Colombia, Panama and the United States agree that it is a regional phenomenon that requires joint and coordinated responses, for which they have organized several meetings.
The United States is considering giving a humanitarian parole to Venezuelans who have financial sponsors in that country during their stay in order to allow them to enter and deter them from trying to cross the border illegally. Authorities detained Venezuelans 25,349 times in August, making them the second most detained nationality at the border, after Mexicans.
“Flows continue to increase and movements are increasing further north,” said Eduardo Stein, UNHCR-IOM Joint Special Representative for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela during the presentation of the report. He pointed out that in parallel, refugees and migrants from Venezuela continue to seek integration opportunities in the south, including Chile and other countries of the Southern Cone.
According to the findings of the analysis, to buy food or avoid living on the streets, many Venezuelans are forced to resort to survival sex, begging or indebtedness, these United Nations agencies point out.
It highlights that despite the progress made through various regularization and documentation initiatives implemented throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the increase in humanitarian needs highlights the urgent need to improve protection and access to services and employment opportunities.
Colombia is home to 2.4 million Venezuelans in its territory and has adopted a policy to regularize their migration status and give them access to basic services such as education and work. However, more and more Venezuelan migrants are seeking better opportunities in the United States and risk crossing the Darién jungle from Colombia, where some even die on the way, to then continue their journey through the Central American countries on their way to the United States. .
The number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela worldwide has exceeded 7.1 million. They are mostly housed in Latin American and Caribbean countries, 5.9 million, 84% of the total. Most have been displaced for many years outside their country and the departure persists.
The report highlights that despite the reopening of schools, many refugee and migrant children and adolescents continue to face multiple obstacles in accessing educational services in their host countries, especially due to the lack of quotas or space. in the schools.
In Colombia, 29% of children and adolescents in Venezuela between the ages of 6 and 17 are not enrolled in school, since their parents cannot pay the fees and school materials. In Aruba and Curaçao, the value of compulsory insurance, transportation and school supplies prevent schooling.
UNHCR and IOM acknowledge that host countries have responded to the crisis by adopting regularization measures and facilitating access to health, education and other social services. However, they maintain that regularization is only the first step towards integration and must be accompanied by policies that allow refugees and migrants to be self-sufficient. For this “international support is urgently needed,” Stein said.
The dangerous Darién route continues to attract migrants to the town of Necoclí, a coastal town on the Colombian side, where nearly 9,000 migrants —most of them Venezuelans— are currently trapped, waiting several days for a small boat to start their way to the jungle. on his journey north in search of better opportunities.
The Colombian state Ombudsman’s Office warned that the current migration emergency is “much more serious” than the one registered in 2021 with the massive arrival in Necoclí of migrants, mostly Haitians, who crossed through the Darién.
“The number of people in human mobility who have passed to Panama exceeds 150,000 compared to the 134,000 migrants in all of 2021. And the trend is to continue increasing,” said the Ombudsman, Carlos Camargo, the day before, after visiting Necoclí .
Venezuelan migrants often lack economic resources, about 1,000 live on the beach in begging conditions waiting for a boat, so they are more exposed to being used by illegal armed groups operating in the area, warned Camargo.
Approximately 15% of the migrants are children or adolescents, who face greater vulnerability conditions in the Darién, an inhospitable jungle where sexual assaults, robberies and human trafficking often occur.
Suárez reported from Bogotá.