USD 1.44 Billion Needed to Support Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela amid COVID-19

Date Publish: 

Geneva – Today, IOM, the International Organization for Migration, and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, launch a USD 1.44 billion regional plan to respond to the growing needs of refugees and migrants from Venezuela, and the communities hosting them, across 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

There are approximately 5.4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela around the world, the vast majority hosted by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The onset of COVID-19 has dangerously strained national and local capacities across the region. Many refugees and migrants and their host communities now face a myriad of new challenges that worsen their already precarious conditions.

Lockdowns, loss of livelihoods and impoverishment are forcing many to become increasingly dependent on emergency humanitarian assistance for their health, shelter, food, protection and education needs.  The impact of the pandemic is also resulting in a dramatic increase of gender-based violence and mental health needs, food insecurity, malnutrition and incidents of stigmatization.

Rising rates of evictions are also leaving many homeless and dependent on temporary accommodation provided by humanitarian organizations.

For refugees and migrants living in irregular situations, the struggle to access basic rights is even more acute. The 2021 Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) is being launched today to meet these evolving needs.

“Prolonged, but necessary lockdown measures and mobility restrictions have had a detrimental impact on refugees’ and migrants’ capacity to maintain livelihoods and access to basic goods and services. Many have lost their livelihoods and simultaneously are not systematically included in social safety nets that have been established for local populations,” said Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela.

Their dire situation has led some people to consider returning to Venezuela, often in unsafe conditions, raising additional protection and health concerns.  At the same time, the number of Venezuelans continuing to leave their country has also increased in recent weeks as lockdown measures ease and conditions there continue to deteriorate.

As borders remain closed, these movements take place mainly through irregular border crossings, exposing refugees and migrants to danger and great risk of physical and sexual abuse, discrimination as well as exploitation and trafficking.

Despite the challenges, there have been encouraging examples across the region of host countries working to ensure the inclusion of refugees and migrants in national responses to the pandemic, on par with their citizens.

Refugees and migrants are also supporting responses, with some working on the frontlines as health workers or disseminating information within their communities.

“The response plan announced today requires the continuous and increased commitment of the international community and the private sector to respond to this crisis. Refugees and migrants from Venezuela and their hosts require our collective support more than ever – both in terms of urgent life-saving humanitarian assistance, but also for development assistance to support local communities and long-term solutions,” added Stein.

The 2021 RMRP intends to further strengthen the national and regional responses of host governments by supporting health, shelter, food, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions, as well as access to education, protection and integration where specific assistance and expertise is required, or where the governments’ own response capacities are overstretched.

The response plan brings together 158 organizations involved in the response, including United Nations agencies, international and national non-governmental organizations, civil society, faith-based organizations, and the Red Cross Movement.

To know more about the RMRP 2021, please visit:

Join the launch event at 10.00 am (Panama time)




For more information, please contact:

In Panama,

Daniela Rovina, IOM ( +507 6312-8294

William Spindler, UNHCR ( +507 6382 7815

Olga Sarrado, UNHCR ( +507 6640 0185


In Geneva,

Angela Wells, IOM ( +41 79 403 5365

Shabia Mantoo, UNHCR ( +41 79 337 7650

R4V, response for Venezuelans, venezuelans, Venezuela

Migrant smuggling in Mexico and Central America was never "quarantined" during 2020, says IOM study.

Date Publish: 
24 / 02 / 2021

San José - A recent study by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Central America and Mexico analyzed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the migration flows involving migrant smugglers. The main findings indicate that smuggling has continued to happen, even though flows have diminished since the beginning of 2020.

Migrant smuggling, the irregular movement of people through international borders, constitutes one of the world's most lucrative criminal activities. While global mobility was utterly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic due to travel restrictions and border closures, the "smuggling of people" throughout Mexico and Central America was never "quarantined."

The report found no evidence of organized crime taking control of the smuggling of migrants, focusing on illegally transporting drugs, medicines, and other articles. Instead, the study found that subsistence smuggling prevails, practiced by inhabitants of border areas, impoverished due to reduced work opportunities and income loss caused by mobility and commercial restrictions.

Migrant smuggling, the report says, is practiced by men and women who depend on informal local economies as income sources. An increase was noted in children and adolescents who reside in border areas and use their knowledge of local hidden paths to facilitate irregular migration.

Findings include information about changes in demand, prices and organization of services offered by smugglers. The lack of resources to meet the payment demanded by smugglers forces migrant families to take mortgages on their lands and properties, becoming victims of both smugglers and lenders.

The study also explores the challenges that institutions have faced in responding to the issue in a context in which their resources and operations were directly affected.

"One of the recommendations of this study is to integrate communities involved in migrant smuggling into socioeconomic recovery strategies to diversify their income generation and livelihood alternatives," says Alexandra Bonnie, coordinator of IOM's Western Hemisphere Program. "States should recognize that diminished, inadequate or difficult access to safe and legal alternatives for migration fuels the demand for migrant smuggling, which in turn systematically puts migrants at risk. Under a comprehensive approach, the fight against this crime should be seen as one more aspect of migration management."

The study was conducted between July and August 2020 with a qualitative, descriptive, and exploratory methodology. Methods used included document review, field observation, and interviews with key government and international organization staff.

The study was presented on Wednesday, February 17, to representatives of member States of the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM), members of the Central American Commission of Directors of Migration (OCAM) and the Regional Coalition against Trafficking of Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (CORETT).

The report is part of the Western Hemisphere Program, funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

Find the full document (in Spanish) here, and a summary in English here.