The United Nations observes June 20th as World Refugee Day. This day is dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world.
A Venezuelan adolescent prepares to spend the night on the streets of Tumbes, Peru. Stranded in the town, she waits to get a stamp on her passport that will allow her to travel through Peru. A trip she is forced to make to escape a crisis in order to survive. Like her, refugees do not choose to be in this situation. According to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, 8,000 Venezuelans crossed the border at Tumbes on Friday June 14th, 2019. That number set a new record on displacement figures.
The total number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Peru stands at about 800,000. The country has received over 280,000 asylum applications from Venezuelan citizens and has given temporary residence permits to over 390,000. But the refugee crisis is not a problem that affects Peru alone. An estimated 1.3 million Venezuelans have settled in Colombia and more than a quarter of a million have settled in Ecuador. Ultimately, the number of Venezuelans who have left to escape the country’s ongoing political and economic crisis has reached four million. This exodus has torn families apart and deteriorated an already affected community. Out of all the people who have migrated, the ones who are affected the most are children. For those who remain in Venezuela, food and medicine shortages, along with increasing insecurity, make the country an inhabitable place for young children. Approximately one third of the children in the country lack access to basic nutrition, health, and education services.
Organizations like Venezuela Aid Live and the United Nations, among others, have ramped up efforts to bring humanitarian aid to Venezuelans in need.
But as the ongoing crisis in Venezuela worsens, so will the number of refugees fleeing from it. Additionally, these fleeing Venezuelans face numerous challenges in other countries as immigrants or refugees. Such challenges include: refugee trauma, harassment, discrimination, gender inequality, lack of employment opportunities, health implications, and lack of housing, among other things.
Lastly, one of the biggest challenges Venezuelan refugees face is international recognition. According to the UNHCR, "A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence." And while the internal conflict in Venezuela drives masses away, it still isn't defined as a war. This is an extremely complex crisis under continuous growing pressure to update the international protection system. A system needed to protect and recognize Venezuelan migrants as refugees in host and neighboring countries.
By Virginia Giunta, Marlon Correa, Daniella Bustillos, Marcela Bustillos.