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E.g., 06/26/2024
Latin American and Caribbean Countries Hosting Displaced Venezuelans Demonstrate Pragmatic Integration Approach, but Should Deepen Their Efforts
Press Release
Thursday, May 25, 2023

Latin American and Caribbean Countries Hosting Displaced Venezuelans Demonstrate Pragmatic Integration Approach, but Should Deepen Their Efforts

WASHINGTON — More than half, and as many as two-thirds, of the estimated 6.4 million displaced Venezuelans who have settled in Latin America and the Caribbean since 2016 have been granted legal status in their host country, a Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report out today finds. A review of policies in the 15 principal Venezuelan-receiving countries in Latin America and the Caribbean finds that most governments have responded with “a surprisingly pragmatic, if often disjointed” approach that has ensured that most of the displaced have some form of legal status, the ability to enter the labor market and access to basic education and emergency health care. Still, the measures implemented are uneven and often not fully institutionalized, MPI analysts note.

Despite their relative lack of experience with large-scale migration, most governments in the region have made a strategic bet that investing in newcomers’ access to legal status, education and basic health care would benefit both displaced Venezuelans and their own citizens, MPI President Andrew Selee and MPI Non-Resident Global Fellow Luciana Gandini write. Policymakers have used a mix of approaches in an iterative and often ad hoc manner, tapping regional mobility and residence agreements, using their asylum systems, adjusting visa policies and creating temporary status measures.

“Initially, many of the decisions were made out of a sense of solidarity or as way of showing opposition to the regime in Venezuela,” Gandini and Selee write. “However, over time many government leaders realized that they needed mechanisms to know who was in the country, formalize labor market access and provide at least a minimum level of access to public services in order to integrate new arrivals in local communities.”

The report, Betting on Legality: Latin American and Caribbean Responses to the Venezuelan Displacement Crisis, examines the response to the displacement of more than 7.4 million Venezuelans—nearly one-quarter of the country’s population—between 2016 and 2022. It details the response in 15 countries that host 99 percent of Venezuelans who have remained in the region, looking at mechanisms for providing legal status and humanitarian protection, as well as policies regarding access to education and health care. It provides country-level data on Venezuelan immigrant populations, refugee applications, visa and residence permit issuance, and the estimated shares with legal status. It concludes with recommendations for policymakers to deepen integration efforts in ways that provide equitable access to livelihoods and public services.

Though as many as two-thirds of displaced Venezuelans have obtained some form of legal status, the authors find that for many, the status is precarious and short term, making it easier for the newcomers to fall out of status or lack a pathway to permanent residency. Initial openness also has given way to newly introduced barriers, with many governments imposing hard-to-meet visa requirements on Venezuelans—resulting in more irregular entries. And while most of the 15 countries examined have provided access to basic education and some health services, significant barriers to access exist.

It is becoming increasingly clear that most displaced Venezuelans will probably never return to Venezuela, and as a result, there is an urgent need to think about legal status for those who never received it and to figure out ways to allow those with temporary status to transition to permanent (or longer-term) status,” the report concludes.

“Significant challenges also remain in terms of ensuring that Venezuelans are able to exercise their existing rights to access public services, as well as to improve their access to higher education, the recognition of educational and professional credentials earned abroad and to broaden their access to health care,” Gandini and Selee write. “There is much to celebrate about how Latin American and Caribbean countries have responded to this first regionwide mass displacement crisis, even as significant effort will be needed to finish the work that they have started.”

Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/latin-american-caribbean-venezuelan-crisis.  

For more research from MPI’s Latin America and Caribbean Initiative, visit: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/latin-america-caribbean-initiative.

And for a clearinghouse on research focused on Latin America and the Caribbean, visit MPI’s Latin America and Caribbean Migration Portal: www.migrationportal.org/.