Did you know that by the end of 2019, the number of people forcibly displaced – for various reasons – war, conflict, persecution, human rights violations – had grown to 79.5 million, which is the highest number on record according to available data? Well, that’s the reality that what we are going to be talking about in this episode.

On June 18, two days before World Refugee Day, UNHCR published a Global Trends report – which showed that forced displacement is now affecting more than one per cent of humanity – meaning 1 in every 97 people – and confirmed that fewer and fewer of those who flee are able to return home. Five countries account for two-thirds of people displaced across borders: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.

So, in this episode, I am joined by two experts – Martha Guerrero Ble and Rachel Schmidtke from “Refugees International” organization.

We spoke of different and specific vulnerabilities that refugees have faced in general, and then addressed why the pandemic response must be inclusive of refugees, asylum-seekers and IDPs. Martha leads the ¨Let Them Work¨ Initiative at Refugees International, a joint project with the Center for Global Development (CGD) that seeks to expand labor market access for refugees worldwide, so she talked about that from both the government and private sector perspective. Then, Martha told us about the freshly published report, “Locked Down and Left Behind,” about the economic effects of COVID-19 on refugees’ economic inclusion. Refugees are 60% more likely to be financially impacted by COVID-19.

Rachel informed us about the latest situation in general in terms of the global pandemic in Latin America. She told us more about the Venezuelan crisis – by the end of 2019, some 4.5 million Venezuelans had left their country, traveling mainly to other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. She wrote a report on how “the COVID-19 pandemic is decimating the Colombian economy and exacerbating what was already a challenging humanitarian situation,” and explained the disproportionate effects on displaced Venezuelans. We also talked why the pandemic situation changed so quickly in Peru and Chile, considering that at the beginning political leaders initially touted success in managing the pandemic. Our guests also addressed the pandemic disaster in Mexico. Rachel authored a piece on why “The Coronavirus Has Become Terrorists’ Combat Weapon of Choice,” and how it impacts civilians in El Salvador.

We also spoke of the specific effects of the pandemic on displaced women and children: even before this global health crisis, women and girls were already struggling to access the most basic services. Rachel explained how Covid-19 is aggravating the dangers of human trafficking and exploitation for Venezuelan migrants, and Martha contributed her insights on gender based violence as well. But, a huge emphasis on (unsustainability of) inequality was present all throughout our conversation.

Martha Guerrero Ble focuses on expanding labor market access to refugees. Martha is a graduate from Georgetown’s Master of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS), where she focused on the intersection of development and humanitarian issues.

Rachel Schmidtke is the advocate for Latin America at Refugees International. Rachel received her M.A. in International Development Policy from Duke University, focusing on migration, Latin American foreign policy, and gender.