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Pandemic Set Back the Socio-Economic Integration of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru; New MPI-IOM Report Makes Case for Turn to Longer-Term Integration Focus
Press Release
Thursday, July 29, 2021

Pandemic Set Back the Socio-Economic Integration of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru; New MPI-IOM Report Makes Case for Turn to Longer-Term Integration Focus

WASHINGTON — The at-times uneven socio-economic integration of Venezuelan refugees and migrants who are being hosted by countries in Latin America has been set back by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study that examines key dimensions of integration, including economic inclusion, social cohesion and access to education and health care.

The findings draw from a new analysis of Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) and other data by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The report explores the progression of socio-economic integration of refugees and migrants from Venezuela over three periods between 2017 and 2021 in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, which host more than 70 percent of the 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left Venezuela since 2015.

The report finds Venezuelans in the five case-study countries experience unemployment at higher rates than the receiving-country population, with many losing jobs during the pandemic. The public-health crisis also has taken a toll on newcomers’ income, with Venezuelans surveyed in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru last fall reporting a more than 50 percent drop since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Irregularity has also been a significant obstacle to integration in Ecuador and Peru during the pandemic.

With more Venezuelans reporting in surveys their intention to remain in their receiving countries, the report underscores the need for governments to transition from short-term humanitarian responses to longer-term integration policies.

“While countries in the region have engaged in creative and often ad hoc policies to regularize their Venezuelan populations, significant shares still lack regular migration status. This suggests the need to redouble efforts to provide access to regular immigration status,” said MPI President Andrew Selee. “These findings demonstrate the importance of improving the credential recognition processes for refugees and migrants from Venezuela as a fundamental part of their socio-economic integration. In turn, Venezuelans contribute positively to the GDP of those countries that receive them.”

Said Diego Beltrand, the IOM Director General’s Special Envoy for the Regional Response to the Venezuela Situation: “Therefore, from the R4V Regional Coordination Platform jointly led by IOM and UNHCR, it is important to continue supporting the socio-economic integration of this population, which requires 256 million dollars, 18 percent of the total requested in the Regional Response Plan for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela 2021.”

Among other findings of the report, Socioeconomic Integration of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees: The Cases of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru:

  • In all five countries, Venezuelans reported working longer hours and earning less income than their counterparts, with high levels of informality and independent work that make them more vulnerable to exploitative working conditions and poverty.
  • The educational credentials of Venezuelans tend to be equal to or higher than those of the receiving-country population, yet significant barriers prevent them from working in their areas of expertise. Just 10 percent of Venezuelans in Chile, Colombia and Peru reporting having had their professional and educational credentials recognized as of October 2020.
  • Despite government efforts to adopt regularization programs, 40 percent or more of Venezuelans in the five countries studied, except for Brazil, lacked regular status almost throughout each of the time periods evaluated.
  • Venezuelans are relatively young and more likely to be of working age than receiving-country populations. While men were over-represented in the initial study period, the flows are now more equally distributed by gender and with families becoming increasingly prevalent. As a result, securing access to education for children is becoming increasingly critical. Despite generally guaranteed access to education, barriers including lack of documents and classroom capacity constraints have resulted in a significant number of out-of-school children, with the notable exception of Chile, where enrollment ranged from 85 – 93 percent.
  • While Chile and Brazil have universal health-care systems, barriers to access, including misinformation, fear of deportation and discrimination persist. In Peru, while access to health insurance improved over time, just 10 percent of Venezuelans reported having subsidized insurance.
  • In all the countries except Brazil, the share of Venezuelan migrants and refugees who reported experiencing discrimination grew between 2017 and 2021, with the most prominent increases in Colombia and Peru.

“As Venezuela’s political crisis continues and the broader region grapples with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Venezuelan migration is unlikely to stop any time soon,” MPI analysts Diego Chaves-González, Jordi Amaral and María Jesús Mora conclude. “It is thus crucial that the region’s governments make a concerted effort to promote the socio-economic integration of Venezuelan migrants and refugees and that the international donor community supports them in doing so.”

Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/socioeconomic-integration-venezuelan-migrants-refugees.

It is also available in Spanish: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/integracion-socioeconomica-migrantes-refugiados-venezolanos.

The report marks the latest research collaboration between MPI and IOM, using DTM data to map experiences for Venezuelan migrants and refugees. An earlier fact sheet used DTM data to paint a picture of the differing socio-economic profiles, living conditions and future intentions regarding settlement or onward movement for Venezuelan expatriates in 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries.
For research and analysis on migration in the region, organized by country and by topic, visit our Latin America & Caribbean Migration Portal, which serves as a clearinghouse for authoritative reports by international organizations, governments, researchers and others; key immigration statistics; laws and regulations relating to migration policy; and original commentary: https://www.migrationportal.org/.

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About the International Organization for Migration
Established in 1951, IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental partners. With 173 member states, a further nine states holding observer status and offices in over 100 countries, IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by providing services and advice to governments and migrants.

About the Migration Policy Institute
A nonpartisan organization, MPI seeks to improve immigration and integration policies through authoritative research and analysis, opportunities for learning and dialogue, and the development of new ideas to address complex policy questions. Founded in 2001, MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels. It aims to meet the rising demand for pragmatic and thoughtful responses to the challenges and opportunities that large-scale migration, whether voluntary or forced, presents to communities and institutions in an increasingly integrated world.