Opening Remarks for International Solidarity Conference for the Venezuelan Refugee and Migrant Crisis
IOM DG António Vitorino
Dear Federica, Dear Filippo, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank Federica for having set up this conference with such short notice because I sincerely think that it is a success. It is a success because our key concern was the gap between the magnitude of the Venezuelan crisis and the lack of visibility in the international community. The fact that you are here today, that this conference is so well attended is proof that you were right, and that there was a need for a timely wake up call to the international community about mobilizing the good will and efforts to support Venezuelan refugees and migrants, and above all, those who are in the frontline; the hosting countries who I also want to salute here.
The second target I have is to reiterate our commitment as the International Organization for Migration together with the high Commissioner for Refugees to the interagency platform for coordination and to thank especially the work of Eduardo Stein, our joint representative.
This shows that our Secretary General António Guterres was absolutely right when he called for joint action from the different agencies speaking with one voice through the one UN project. We are united working together supporting the countries of the region that are confronted, as Federica just said, with the biggest exodus in the region’s modern history and the second largest displacement of people in the world.
The third reason I'm here today is to recognize and praise the extraordinary generosity of the countries that have received and welcomed refugees and migrants from Venezuela. They are proving that it is possible to bandage this kind of situation in a reasonable way. In fact, there are two million people who have been granted, in one way or another, legal status for mobility and for regularization. In the countries of destination, there are 650,000 who have been registered as asylum seekers.
But the countries in the region did not only manage to let people go or receive them in their territory. They have opened their homes, their schools and their hospitals to Venezuelans arriving in dire need of medicine, shelter and food. However, at a time when 4.5 million are expected to be in the region by the end of this year and prospectively 6.5 million by the end of next year, we all need to recognize that the societies of those countries are under very strong strain. It is absolutely necessary to have very clear priorities.
The first one in my view is to keep with the coordination under the Quito Process. We have to thank Ecuador for having launched this coordination platform. We want thank Argentina and Colombia for taking the leadership of this process of coordination: harmonization, strategic approach and coordination in practical terms to receive the Venezuelans that are displaced.
And secondly, to recognize that the countries in the region have innovated and found solutions to recognize identification documents that have expired. That has happened in Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, and it is now happening in Ecuador. The Brazilian Operação Acolhida, which is not just a way of supporting those who arrive at the border but is also relocating them inside the Brazilian territory or allowing access to the labour market which is probably the most sensitive issue not just because the labour market of those countries is under strong pressure but also because there is a need to recognize the qualifications of the Venezuelans that are on the move. All in all, the magnitude of the crisis generates a high demand for documentation and regularization.
I fully understand, as Filippo has just said to you, that the countries of the region in their dialogue with their own societies have to take measures that show that they are able to manage the flows of people arriving. Those restrictive measures need to be implemented in the most restrained way, bearing in mind the situation of the most vulnerable migrants and keeping them under constant review and monitoring in order to prevent the abuse of the dignity of people on the move and fight back against the traffickers and smugglers that are always waiting for a business opportunity.
Ladies and gentlemen, the challenge to provide humanitarian assistance requires strong commitment from the international community. This is an operation that is definitely underfunded and we need to guarantee, not only for the year 2019 but also for 2020, that the international community is holding up to its responsibility to guarantee the necessary level of funding to support the migrants, the refugees and the host communities.
We also need to see the positive side of this movement. There are economic benefits that can be taken out of this situation. There are contributions that the Venezuelans are giving to the labour market in Argentina in the oil sector, or in the rural agriculture sector in other countries in the region. And of course, we need to guarantee that they are all fully respected in their human rights and their dignity. We need the donor countries to mobilise. We need the private sector to mobilise. We need the international financial institutions to mobilise. I therefore add my voice to Filippo’s in making a clear call for a pledging conference that can turn this into reality our good will and our commitments.
The sustainable development goals say that nobody should be left behind, it is our responsibility in the very difficult situation in Latin America to leave also no Venezuelan behind.