Supporting host communities for refugees and migrants from Venezuela in the border regions of Colombia and Ecuador
Title: Supporting host communities for refugees and migrants from Venezuela in the border regions of Colombia and Ecuador (FRONTERA special initiative)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Colombia, Ecuador
Lead executing agency: Colombia: Colombian Presidential Agency for International Cooperation, Ecuador: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility
Overall term: 2018 to 2021
By the end of 2019, the United Nations predicts that that there will be some 5.4 million displaced Venezuelans worldwide. Thousands of people are leaving the country every day, and it seems unlikely that this situation will change any time soon. Initially, they seek refuge in the regions bordering Colombia and in the major cities. However, many of them immediately travel on to other South American countries, especially Ecuador. While many of the people who came at the beginning of the crisis were well-qualified professionals, now it is individuals with low qualifications and less training, as well as chronically ill and elderly people. Increasingly, there are also children and young people travelling alone as well as mothers with their children. Public bodies and organisations that provide humanitarian aid and basic services on the ground can no longer supply new arrivals with the basic necessities. The economic integration of the migrants is a particular challenge.
Almost 94 per cent of migrants from Venezuela enter Colombia via the department of Norte de Santander. This region continues to be a hotbed of armed conflicts between groups of criminals involved in drug cultivation, smuggling and other illegal activities. The host communities themselves are home to many families in need of protection and victims of historical and current violence. At the same time, there is a great deal of commuter migration in the border regions. Thousands of Venezuelans cross the border on foot every day seeking access to health services, food, casual labour and school education. This puts an additional burden on the already strained supply of basic services on the Colombian side.
In Ecuador, there are more than 65,000 recognised refugees, 250,000 asylum seekers from Colombia and around 300,000 displaced Venezuelans. More people from both countries arrive on a daily basis, in search of sanctuary and better living conditions, and in particular employment opportunities and health care. Against the backdrop of the current economic crisis, these people are increasingly encountering a growing rejection on the part of the Ecuadorian people who are pushing them to the fringes of society. Due to their often-unregulated residence status, they are frequently denied basic services, particularly health care, schooling and access to the labour market. At the same time, they have hardly any opportunities to effectively claim their rights
Governmental and civil society stakeholders in the border regions of Colombia and Ecuador are better placed to manage the incoming flow of refugees and migrants from Venezuela and Colombia in a manner that is socially responsible and effective in terms of creating jobs.
The project supports the Colombian host communities with the integration of displaced persons from Venezuela. In accordance with the ‘do no harm’ principle, no distinction is made about whether the supported persons are displaced Venezuelans, Colombians returning from Venezuela or people from the host communities in need of protection.
The existing services available for these target groups are being expanded and the quality of the services is being improved. By agreement with the state partners, the focus here is on the initial reception of migrants, support for employment and micro-enterprises, education, health care, psychosocial support and the promotion of peaceful cohabitation. The project cooperates with state partners and experienced non-state service providers to implement these measures. Successful experiences at local level are passed on to the authorities at national level as policy recommendations.
At local level, the project supports selected communities on Ecuador’s northern border. The focus is on implementing their legal mandate to protect the rights of displaced persons and other disadvantaged groups, on integration and on promotion of peaceful cohabitation in the host communities.
Above all, the project advises social service providers, civil society and public authorities on improving labour and employment measures, on psychosocial support, training offers and legal advice for displaced persons and for other disadvantaged sections of the population. Information-sharing regarding solutions for common challenges faced by Colombia and Ecuador plays a key role in the chosen procedure.