Explanation: why the exodus of refugees from Venezuela to the United States has accelerated
Oct 18 (Reuters) – U.S. and Mexican authorities recently announced a new policy that would deport Venezuelans entering through the U.S. land border to Mexico, but allow up to 24,000 people from the country to seek humanitarian entry into the United States. United by air.
Because of the new policy, thousands of Venezuelans believed to be en route to the United States are now stuck between the two countries during a year when Venezuelans are arriving at the US border in record numbers.
WHY HAVE THE NEW MEASURES BEEN IMPLEMENTED?
Measures partly in response to political pressure on US President Joe Biden to limit the record number of illegal border crossings between Mexico and the United States. Venezuelans have been one of the largest groups of migrants involved in these crossings, in part because Washington last year granted temporary protected status to those on US soil. Deporting Venezuelans is also more complicated than with migrants of other nationalities as the two countries severed diplomatic relations in 2019, making it difficult to organize deportation flights.
More than 150,000 Venezuelans were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border between October 2021 and August 2022, up from nearly 48,000 in fiscal year 2021, according to U.S. government data. In September, more than 33,000 Venezuelans were encountered at the US-Mexico border, more than the number of unique travelers from Mexico and more than immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras combined, the data shows. of the US government.
WHAT NOW HAPPENS TO VENEZUELANES IN TRANSIT TO THE UNITED STATES?
Those in transit may attempt to reach the United States despite the virtual certainty that they will be sent back to Mexico. So far, Mexican authorities have given many of these people a maximum of two weeks to leave the country. It’s unclear where Venezuelans waiting in Mexico will stay, as Mexico’s migrant accommodation system is often overwhelmed.
Some could return to Venezuela, while others could settle in different Latin American countries, where Venezuelan migrants have in some cases faced discrimination, limited employment opportunities and restrictions on their migration status.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), half of the population of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean cannot afford three meals a day and do not have access to a housing, forcing many of them to resort to sex work or begging.
WHO CAN REGISTER FOR THE NEW US PROGRAM?
Venezuelans who meet US requirements can apply for the recently announced US program. Among the requirements is a US-based supporter and possession of a valid passport. The cost of a passport in Venezuela is $200, almost ten times the country’s minimum wage.
Only 1% of the 1,591 migrants who left Venezuela between June and August held a passport, according to the Observatory of Social Investigations, a rights group.
WHAT STARTED THE VENEZUELAN EXODUS?
Under the late President Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, the country with the world’s largest oil reserves has resisted corruption and inflation.
Then, in 2014, Venezuela’s economy collapsed as world oil prices plummeted, and living conditions deteriorated further as tight price controls created widespread shortages. Products began to disappear from store shelves as black markets flourished with products ranging from cooking oil to corn flour.
In 2018, inflation in Venezuela exceeded 1 million percent. Medicines for conditions ranging from headaches to cancer were unavailable.
WHY DO VENEZUELANES STILL MIGRATE?
Despite some improvements following an opening of the economy in 2019 that included informal dollarization, most Venezuelans still struggle to afford basic goods and services. Efforts by the government of Chavez successor Nicolas Maduro to ease economic restrictions have eased shortages and fueled consumption in high income brackets, but left the vast majority of the population earning wages well below cost. of life.
The monthly minimum wage in the OPEC member country is around $15, while the price of a basket of goods covering the monthly needs of a family of five was around $370 at the end of September, according to the Non-Governmental Observatory of Venezuelan Finances.
Even in the relatively affluent Caracas trade and service sector, employees earn on average only about $130 a month. Meanwhile, in the public sector, which employs some 2.2 million people, the average monthly salary is around $20 to $30.
Economists claim that at least 30% of the population has not benefited from the new economic measures.
Remittances to Venezuelans from relatives in the United States or elsewhere help but are insufficient for most. Only a quarter of Venezuelan families receive remittances, averaging just $70 a month, according to Caracas-based consultancy Anova.
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Reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas and Sarah Kinosian in Mexico Editing by Matthew Lewis
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