The Many Faces of Venezuelan Migration: Challenges and Solutions

Irene Estefania Gonzalez / Inter-American Dialogue

On August 1, the Inter-American Dialogue partnered with Visión Democrática to host an event on “The Many Faces of Venezuelan Migration: Challenges and Solutions.” The discussion was moderated by Laura Porras, Associate for the Migration, Remittances & Development Program at the Dialogue, and featured panelists Pedro Leyva, President of the Assembly of Cucuta, Colombia; Francisco Márquez, Executive Director of Visión Democrática; and Miryam Hazan, Social Inclusion Specialist at the Organization of American States (OAS). After opening remarks by Michael Shifter, the panelists discussed the status and features of the Venezuelan migrant crisis, particularly across the Colombian border, and the accelerated growth of the Venezuelan diaspora over the past few years.

Each panelist was able to present a different perspective on the Venezuelan exodus. Although each made a point to emphasize the dire and unprecedented nature of the crisis, there was a general sense of optimism that despite its challenges, this migration flow could also present opportunities for countries receiving Venezuelan migrants. For example, while conceding that the ballooning Venezuelan population in Cucuta has strained the city’s social and physical infrastructure, Leyva also saw opportunity in the labor these migrants could provide to the city’s agricultural, mineral, and energy industries. Leyva stressed the importance of leveraging a response to the immigration crisis through both local and national authorities, as part of a comprehensive plan to build upon local knowledge. He underlined the importance of establishing communications with international bodies, such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organization of American States, and the International Organization for Migration in order to facilitate the economic and social integration of the Venezuelans. He also affirmed the need for transparency between actors, especially regarding how and where funding is directed on the ground.

Márquez, Executive Director of Visión Democrática, which works to integrate and connect the Venezuelan diaspora abroad, prefaced his comments by reminding the audience that immigration is a “new phenomenon for Venezuela,” which has historically only been a host country for migrants fleeing violence and instability in other countries in the region. Márquez characterized the Venezuelan diaspora, now spread out in 96 different countries, as a distinctly heterogeneous group, with a wide range of qualifications and income levels. Finding ways to connect the disparate Venezuelan communities abroad is crucial to ease the struggles of migration and help Venezuelans deal with economic and political crisis back in their home country.

Miryam Hazan stressed the importance of documentation, noting that Venezuelans have little access to it even in their country, and that Venezuelans are confronted with very different realities depending on their legal status in the host country. Around 1.3 million Venezuelans live in irregular conditions or with an informal status, making it difficult to receive adequate healthcare, a stable income, or social services. Despite this, Hazan was optimistic that with the support of international bodies such as the OAS, Latin American countries could work together to streamline the legal processes to facilitate Venezuelan migration, and create a model for humanitarian immigration across the globe. Hazan emphasized that another important aspect to focus on is combating xenophobia towards Venezuelans across Latin America, which threatens the well-being of both the migrants and the host population.

Given the constantly shifting nature of Venezuela’s humanitarian and migration crises, it is essential to have frequent and open dialogues on their challenges, potential solutions, and widespread effects. The Q&A portion of the event focused on the importance of increasing collaboration between international, national, and subnational actors. By involving both civic and political actors and continuing the dialogue, Latin America can more effectively respond to the needs of those who have fled an unimaginable situation, and those who still live it every day.

Watch the full recording of this event here