Excellent. Thank you very much.
I would start by mentioning some figures and trends on the overall situation and the impact of the Venezuelan situation in the region. In the last statistics, we account for more than three million migrants and refugees outside the country. Eight out of 10 persons are in neighbouring South American countries, Caribbean and southern Central American countries, but there are also important movements towards the U.S., Canada, Spain and the European Union.
We also have to notice a very rapid deterioration of the situation, with more than two million persons arriving in the last few years. In addition to that, we have also to consider other population movements. There are circular migration movements from Colombia to Venezuela, with people going back and forth, sometimes looking only for food and medicines. There are also important groups of Latin American citizens who have been obliged to go back to their country. We are talking about some 400,000 Colombian returnees, but there are also people from other nationalities coming back to their hometown.
Here is an important piece of information. Why are these people leaving? I believe the outflow of Venezuelans is a response to a serious political, social and economic background, but we have also to observe that there are important international protection considerations. Criminality rates are very high. There are also imputed political opinions, such as the loss of employment for those who are not in favour of the regime, and also discrimination in the redistribution of food and other basic items.
Finally, as the UN Human Rights Council has mentioned in the last human rights resolution of September 2018, there are also serious human rights violations in the context of political, economic, social and humanitarian crises.
On the response, I believe that the key word for the region has been “solidarity”. In fact, all the countries, at least in South America, have kept the doors open, and close to one million persons have received different forms of legal stay. In addition to that, we have over 360,000 asylum claims filed in the region. We have also to remember that asylum seekers, refugees and migrants have freedom of movement, access to social rights and work permits, and access to most public services. It is not only the solidarity of the governments; we have also to mention the solidarity of the whole society.
However, there are also very important constraints and an increased pressure on the governments, first due to the economic shock. Just in Colombia, they estimate that the reception and attention of Venezuela represents 0.5% of their annual GDP. Basic services are completely strained, mainly in border areas. On the other hand, we have also some trends, some incidents of xenophobia and discrimination. There were even violent protests in some countries.
On the government side, some countries have introduced some restrictions—visas, passport requirements, the high cost of documents, but also in the case of the Caribbean, deportations. On the other hand, we have also to remember that fewer than 7,000 Venezuelans have been recognized as refugees.
On the protection concerns and vulnerabilities, we have observed the following main vulnerabilities of the population. The first is access to the territory and to effective protection. There are many Venezuelans still in an irregular situation. It is estimated to be about 40% to 50%, depending on the countries.
There are also many cases of GBV—gender-based violence—and trafficking at the borders of Colombia, forced recruitment, situations of unaccompanied children ,and of course very high vulnerabilities in terms of health, education and livelihoods, and in particular cases of labour exploitation.
I will now focus on the response, because I believe that in this year of the global compact, the region is giving a model, an example, of how we have to coordinate the respond to this kind of crisis. In the response, we have of course governments involved, but also the UN system, other international organizations, and in the last months, a greater engagement of the development banks.
On the governments, each government has established a national response plan. As we said, they have created, established or reinforced legal stay arrangements, and they are promoting or facilitating effective access of Venezuelans to health services, education and the labour market.
At the regional level, governments have promoted a regional process. It is called the Quito process, and it has two dimensions. First, in September, they presented the declaration, and the main message is to keep doors open. As well, last November they adopted an action plan. In this action plan, you have a proposal to harmonize legal stay arrangements, promote regularization and facilitate the social and economic rights of Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
An example in the case of education is their recognition of titles and of certificates. There is also a commitment to international co-operation, and there is also a request to maintain an open and constructive dialogue with Venezuela for some specific issues affecting the Venezuelan population, such as documentation and health.
These government processes are very much due to the creation, the establishment, of a special mechanism created by IOM and UNHCR by the High Commissioner under the Director General at the request of the Secretary-General. In fact, two months ago a regional platform was established and a joint special representative for IOM and UNHCR was appointed. We are talking about Mr. Eduardo Stein, who is trying to articulate with a different government and to assure a consistent and coherent message and a consistent response to this crisis.
At the operational level, we have, under the overall coordination of IOM and UNHCR, more than 100 partners at national and regional levels coordinating and working together. The main objective is to have a coherent and coordinated regional operational response to identify gaps and to complement the response of the states.
This regional platform will present tomorrow a proposal, a refugee and migrant response plan, to increase the immediate response from the international community. This response is maybe one of the most ambitious plans presented by the humanitarian community. It involves 75 partners—not only the UN, but also international and regional organizations and civil society in 16 countries. The target population is over two million refugees and migrants from Venezuela as well as host communities. The budget amounts to over $730 million. The main priorities are, of course, humanitarian support, but also access to health care and education, the promotion of social and economic inclusion, and the prevention of and response to GBV.
The last point is also how the dynamics of the government go together with support and complementarity from the international community.
We have also seen how the development actors are engaging in this response. Indeed, there are proposals from some banks—the World Bank in particular, but also the Inter-American Development Bank—to promote a regional financial platform.
The World Bank is already supporting the states with technical assistance for the assessment of the fiscal impact of the crisis and in the development of a medium- and long-term response. They are also foreseeing the activation of the Global Concessional Financial Facility, which, as you know, has been activated in other regions, such as the Middle East.
The Inter-American Development Bank is also submitting for approval the creation of a $100,000,000 fund for displacement and migration crises, including the crisis in Venezuela.
To conclude, there are three priorities that we see for the time being in the region.
The first priority is to maintain doors open, ensuring the legal stay of migrants and refugees and the protection of Venezuelans in neighbouring countries.
The second priority is to scale up the immediate response to the crisis, not only with humanitarian support to help migrants and refugees but also to benefit the main communities affected by the arrival of this population.
Third, we require further, stronger, more robust support from the international community for states to promote and facilitate the local integration of refugees and migrants. We believe it is a matter of stability for the whole region to have solidarity and responsibility sharing.
Thank you very much.