Around 3.7 million Venezuelans have left their homes in recent years amid a complex political and economic landscape, resulting in the largest number of refugees and migrants in the region during the past decade. About 2.7 million are currently residing in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Although international attention has been largely focused in borderline countries, the islands of the Caribbean are receiving a significant number of this influx. Many arrive after facing highly dangerous routes by land as well as by sea, this migratory dynamic increases the degree of vulnerability to exploitation, human trafficking and abuse.
As the outflow remains high, the Caribbean has an opportunity to benefit significantly from the integration of this population in an adequately and regulated manner by the adoption of policies at all levels that promote the access to social services, education, labour markets and cultural integration.
“Migrants are productive members of society, generally. There are a lot of migrant success stories. Migrants contribute to society. So, we will try to strengthen the capacity of host communities and integrate migrants and support the government,” said Robert Natiello, IOM’s Regional Coordination Officer for the Caribbean.
According to Peru’s National Superintendence for Migrations, 90% of Venezuelan migrants have technical or professional studies, which contributes positively to the sectors.
The integration of this population can bring economic strength as well as increase contributions to social security payments and other public services to the host country. They can reactivate economies in several ways: by bringing innovation, ideas and investment as well as by bringing new, diverse skills and experience.
Several initiatives have already been undertaken in the Caribbean by partners and host governments to improve integration:
- Facilitating access to medical services, including specialized services to support cases of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and victims of trafficking, and providing psychosocial support and counselling service.
- Advocating for accessible work permits to Venezuelans to promote economic self-sufficiency and to reduce exploitation.
- Engaging in consultations with relevant authorities on the inclusion of Venezuelans in existing public livelihood programs and enabling access to public services.
- Offering learning spaces to primary- and secondary-age migrant and refugee children.
- Sensitization activities on international refugee protection for workers in public sectors.
As events continue to develop, it is key to remember that refugees and migrants are rights holders, and their economic and social integration represents a potential boost at national and regional levels alike. Although change can be daunting, history has proven that people and countries can find strength in diversity.