Via Financial Times

$2.1bn in loans and $653m in aid pledged for Venezuelan migrant crisis

Gideon Long in Bogotá

Countries from around the world have pledged $653m and a further $2.1bn in loans and other assistance to help Venezuelan migrants, and to ease the burden on Latin American countries struggling to deal with what has become the biggest migration crisis on the planet.

At an online conference organised by the EU and Spain, donor countries said tackling the Venezuelan exodus had become even more urgent now the virus had struck, triggering lockdowns in many Latin American countries and depriving migrants of work.

“These contributions will make a real difference to the lives of refugees and migrants from Venezuela, who have been extremely hard-hit by the pandemic,” said Eduardo Stein, special representative for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). “The commitments made today to support humanitarian efforts offer a ray of hope to many families who have lost everything they had.”

More than 5m people have left Venezuela in the past five years, escaping the biggest economic meltdown in recent Latin American history. In the past two years, the exodus has become the biggest on the planet, eclipsing even the flow of Syrians through the Mediterranean, which has slowed after a decade of war. Venezuelan migration also dwarfs the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar or migration from war-torn South Sudan.

Most have come to Colombia, Peru, Chile and Ecuador and many do not have permission to stay. Lots eke out a living in the informal labour market.

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Those jobs have dried up under lockdown leaving migrants with the difficult choice of staying in their adopted countries — where they have to pay rent — or heading home to Venezuela, where conditions are even worse but where most have family and a roof over their heads.

Since coronavirus struck, some 50,000 Venezuelans have crossed back into their country from neighbouring Colombia in a partial reversal of the exodus.