As more than 4 million Venezuelans flee their country, the risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation of Venezuelan women and girls is becoming more acute and demands urgent attention. Moreover, the number of reported female Venezuelan victims of trafficking is on the rise. In this report, Devon Cone and Melanie Teff examine the crisis of trafficking of Venezuelan women in the contexts of Colombia, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, and Curaçao and recommend a path forward for confronting trafficking and enhancing regional cooperation on this critical issue.
Almost 1.2 million Venezuelans have entered Ecuador since 2015, most of whom have traveled onward to Peru or other third countries as they flee economic and social collapse at home. As more Venezuelans with increasingly acute needs arrive and choose to stay, Ecuador must do more to protect and provide opportunities for Venezuelans—and international donors must respond more generously.
Following the registration period for Venezuelan refugees in Trinidad and Tobago, thousands remain unregistered. Refugees International is gravely concerned about the possibility that arrests and deportations may follow and urges the government of Trinidad and Tobago to extend the registration period.
We, the undersigned organizations, members of the Working Group on Venezuelan Human Mobility, would like to express our concern over the recent decision adopted on June 6, 2019 by the Peruvian government, which requires Venezuelan citizens to present a humanitarian visa at the border to enter Peru. Said measure will enter into effect on midnight, June 15, 2019.
As the crisis in Venezuela has intensified, 3.4 million Venezuelans have fled their homes—many to other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Only 40 miles from the coast of Venezuela, an estimated 10,000 to 13,000 Venezuelans have fled to Curaçao in search of safe harbor. But once on the island, many of them live hidden and afraid with no real opportunities to obtain international protection or other forms of legal stay.
The Venezuelan displacement crisis has continued to grow during the first months of 2019. Now in its fourth year, this is one of the largest displacement crises in the world—3.4 million have fled Venezuela, and the global community is watching to see how the region responds. As affected states convene in Quito to discuss a way forward, they must use the opportunity to harmonize policies and mobilize support for a coordinated, effective response. Refugees International takes stock of recent developments in view of the goals of the Quito Process and recommends national- and regional-level action.
The U.N. estimates that 2019 could see the exodus of some 2.1 million Venezuelans, adding to the 3.3 million who have already fled political and economic turmoil under President Nicolás Maduro.
If those projections hold true, neighboring Colombia will likely receive the lion’s share of refugees, solidifying the country’s role at the front line of the crisis.
Eric Schwartz is the president of Refugees International, and commends Colombia for keeping its borders open and allowing those fleeing Venezuela to access basic services.
“In an awful situation, Colombia is standing up and doing pretty much the right thing.”
But Refugees International warns in a new report that that could change if Colombia fails to get more international support.
Remember, 7 million Colombians remain internally displaced by fighting between the government and FARC rebels. And even though the two sides signed a peace deal in 2017, Colombia has a long way to go to help those whose livelihoods were destroyed by decades of war.
If the Venezuelan refugee issue distracts from that effort, attitudes toward refugees could change.
“In any situation where there are large numbers of people fleeing and trying to seek refuge, there are challenges with respect to host communities, and I think the government of Colombia could very much use the financial support of the international community in addressing what some of those host community concerns might be.”
To do that, Schwartz suggests those donating to the refugee response also could help Colombia ensure its domestic peace process is successful.
And crucially, Colombia can’t be left to deal with the refugee crisis by itself, lest a go-it-alone approach to migration prevail.
“We know what the worst case looks like. All you have to do is look in other parts of the world where governments are shutting borders. It means that people who are at risk suffer much more significantly, that more people die and that governments use hate-filled rhetoric to stoke polarization.”
A Refugees International team traveled to Colombia to bear witness to the experience of displaced Venezuelans. But they quickly discovered that it is impossible to view the Venezuelan displacement crisis on its own when there are already 7.7 million internally displaced people in Colombia amid ongoing internal armed conflict.