Latin America grappling to cope with influx of migrants
8 julio 2019

On June 27, the Organization of American States published a report showing that a full 13% of Venezuelans have left the country. In this section we analyze the dynamics and origins of this and its regional impact.

Since the onset of the political crisis, 4 million Venezuelans have left the country. 65% of migrants have headed to these four countries: Colombia (1.3 million), Peru (768,100), Chile (288,200) and Ecuador (263,000). Argentina and Brazil have seen less of an influx, 168,000 and 130,000 people respectively. The OAS’ projections are striking: by 2020 the total migrant figure could rise to 7.5 million.

What is behind this? For a start, the country’s political and economic instability. The escalation of the conflict between Nicolás Maduro and the opposition has eroded civil rights, driven down living standards and led to an upsurge in violence. The deterioration of the situation has been exacerbated by a deep economic crisis marked by inflation of nearly 10,000,000% according to IMF data, plus a shortage of basic foods and medical supplies.

How is this impacting the regional level? The OAS report warns that the wellbeing of migrants cannot be guaranteed because the countries of the region lack the financial resources and infrastructure necessary to cater for them. International aid isn’t helping to plug this gap either. So far, the UN Regional Response Plan for Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees has only raised $158 million, 19% of its target.

As the migration crisis deepens, the countries of the region have begun making diplomatic shifts. Broadly, two separate camps are emerging. The first includes Colombia, which says it won’t modify its policy of unrestricted reception but has requested international support to deal with the migratory flow. (The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has responded to this by pledging to mobilize the necessary resources). 

And then, on the other side, there are the likes of Chile and, more recently, Peru, who are among the countries to recently tighten visa requirements. El Salvador, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama have done the same. Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra said the goal is “to maintain an orderly and safe emigration”. In the same vein, the Chilean government issued a warning about the need to restrain population flows.

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