Political and economic instability in Venezuela has led to a mass exodus of people crossing into neighboring Colombia. According to the Organization of American States, the number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees had reached five million at the end of January 2020. Last year, the UNHCR and OIM warned that the number could increase to 6.5 million in 2020.
Several countries across the Latin America and Caribbean region have shown great solidarity in opening their borders to Venezuelan refugees and migrants. Colombia, which shares 2,219km of border with Venezuela, has received the highest number of migrants. According to Migración Colombia, as of February 2020, the number of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia had reached 1.8 million.
While this migration phenomenon has affected all parts of Colombia, the effect is most strongly felt in the major cities and border regions. According to Migración Colombia figures, the capital, Bogotá, has around 270,000 Venezuelan migrants, and in some border towns, such as Cúcuta, Maicao, and Arauca, the migrant population has increased by between 9 and 23 percent over the past two years.
The sharp increase in population and people requiring services has put additional pressure on the physical and social infrastructure, and has left the economy in affected areas in a precarious state. The unprecedented nature of this migration phenomenon has led to challenges in creating public policies to address issues in migrant and receptor communities.
ACDI/VOCA Colombia Programs Counter Xenophobia & Promote Coexistence
Additionally, the lack of accurate information regarding migrants and topics relating to migration has exacerbated social conflict at the local level, increasing intolerance and xenophobia. ACDI/VOCA, through USAID’s Program of Alliances for Reconciliation (PAR) and the Emergency Response in Arauca (ERA) program, is striving to mitigate xenophobia and other problems stemming from misinformation. ACDI/VOCA provides solutions that promote reconciliation by improving citizen security and coexistence in addition to helping the Government of Colombia construct policies addressing the issue.
ACDI/VOCA addresses issues related to migration by:
- Raising awareness among the private sector through initiatives such as Vamos Colombia, a corporate volunteer initiative that brings volunteers from Colombia’s largest companies to work on community development projects
- Working alongside the Council of American Enterprises (CEA) to generate employment and entrepreneurship opportunities
- Using ACDI/VOCA’s behavior change methodology, DecidoSer, to improve security and coexistence and promote personal changes among migrants and host communities alike
- Building social cohesion by improving dialogue, respect, trust, and solidarity
- Working with national and local media to provide objective and accurate information such as with the Migration Project Venezuela, which generates data to help inform public policy and programmatic responses
- Collaborating on a mass migration study with Semana magazine to help the GOC and the public understand migration
- Spreading positive messages to dispel myths and break down stereotypes that can lead to outbreaks of xenophobia
- Support the Border Management Agency with the design of strategies that promote security and coexistence
- Work with local governments, mayors’ offices, and the Presidency to improve policies, access to basic services, and economic stability
EMERGENCY RESPONSE IN ARAUCA II
Under the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)-funded ERA program, ACDI/VOCA is tackling the most pressing needs in two settlements of the border municipality of Arauca, Colombia. The program is strengthening food security and access to clean drinking water, as well as restoring social structures that lead to a safe and secure living environment for 3,916 migrants, returnee Colombians, and members of the receptor community, all living in extreme poverty.
Funders: USAID, USAID OFDA
Project Director: Nicole Chao, email@example.com
Learn more about our Emergency Response in Arauca II Program here
Learn more about our Program of Alliances for Reconciliation Program here
Learn more about our work in Colombia here
Learn more about our DecidoSer methodology here
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