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María Gutiérrez, a Venezuelan migrant who is dedicated to recycling in Colombia HELP IN ACTION 1/30/2023

Getting a job, the challenge of Venezuelan migrants abroad in post-pandemic times

The absence of job opportunities for Venezuelan migrants in their host countries in post-pandemic times, as well as their lack of income in the context of the crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine, are some of the many challenges that NGOs will face. in 2023.

The Colombia program director of the NGO Ayuda en Acción, Orlando Ortiz, points out that the unemployment rate — which was already not good before the pandemic and the war in Ukraine — has pushed many migrants residing outside of Venezuela, both in the United States and in other Latin American countries, to “find solutions” to their “family and economic crises.”

Along these lines, the person in charge of programs in South America of the aforementioned NGO, Araceli Sanz Cacho, has also spoken, who also points out that the migratory trend in recent years has increased towards North America, although the flow of migration has not stopped at any moment to the usual receiving countries in Latin America.

This is the case of Norlin Bruzual, 38, who, although she had a stable job in Venezuela as a teacher and specialist in industrial safety, was forced to go to the capital of Peru, Lima, to send remittances to her family and help with the home spends.

“As the country was declining, our livelihood became more difficult every day. We adults endured, but there came a time when we could not even pay his (his son’s) basic expenses. So we decided to leave. We did not migrate for pleasure, we went out out of necessity,” he says, according to testimony collected by Ayuda en Acción.

The economic situation in Venezuela worsened in 2018 and all their loved ones had to move to Lima. To this was added the pandemic, in 2020, which ended up aggravating the situation and they decided, once again, to pack their bags and go to Colombia. In order to afford the plane ticket, they sold all their belongings.

“From the first moment I have felt welcomed and safe. Everyone has welcomed us with open arms (in Colombia): from the landlady who rented us the apartment to the neighbor who is teaching my son carpentry so that in the future he can have his own workshop,” he recounts, although he affirms that he sees it as “impossible” to return to Venezuela, since he could not “guarantee quality of life” for his son.

María Alejandra Gutiérrez Heredia, however, did not arrive in Colombia by plane, but rather by land in 2020 together with her children and her grandson, before the COVID-19 pandemic. In her case, this 34-year-old Venezuelan had to sell her fast food stall due to the economic situation in Venezuela.

She now lives in Cúcuta, in Colombia, together with her husband, her five children and her grandson, all of them Venezuelans. Her testimony reflects the difficulties suffered by those people who are dedicated to recycling, a job that supports the whole family.

Both she and her husband, with the help of her two youngest children, who now go to public school, have been forced to work in this sector, driven by necessity and the lack of job opportunities. In colombia.

Despite the discrimination they have suffered, especially because the recyclers carry the stigma of drug addiction, Gutiérrez Heredia affirms, like Bruzual, that they have been very supported by the neighbors, who have donated food to them in times of need.

DIFFERENT MIGRATION ROUTES

Faced with the complicated humanitarian and economic crisis in Venezuela, many have been forced to migrate north, using the routes of Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico with the desire to reach the United States. The Darien Gap, the inhospitable jungle that separates Colombia from Panama, is one of the most dangerous routes traveled by migrants.

In contrast, southern countries, such as Peru, Bolivia or Chile, also receive many Venezuelan migrants, reaching a peak in 2019 in which dozens of people in the Chilean region of Tarapacá, in the city of Iquique, left to protest against the presence of illegal migration.

This episode also strained relations between Chile and Bolivia. The Chilean local authorities at that time accused Bolivia of “not making any effort” to contain the crossing of migrants at the border, in the north of the country, and also blamed then-President Sebastián Piñera for neglect of duties.

In the case of Peru, for example, one of the largest recipients of Venezuelan migrants along with Ecuador and Colombia, more than a million people from Venezuela have arrived in the country, according to figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). ).

In fact, an estimated 1.6 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants will reside in Peru — more than half in the capital — by the end of 2023, according to data from the Interagency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants (R4V).

In Peru, she managed to establish Mayen after traveling for seven days by bus together with her two youngest daughters. Upon arriving in the Latin American country, she found a position as a dental assistant, although later, and in the middle of the pandemic, she was left without a job.

The situation for her and her family reached such an extreme that she found herself forced to sell jelly and ice cream in front of her children’s school gate. Her story, however, ends positively: she now supports a business in her house where she receives her clients.

HUMANITARIAN PRIORITIES IN VENEZUELA

The latest Ayuda en Acción report, carried out in December with more than 3,200 vulnerable households, concluded that the states with the highest rate of food insecurity are Amazonas, Apure, Zulia and Sucre, where there are also higher percentages of poorly cleaned homes due, among other reasons, to things, to the lack of economic resources of the families.

With respect to the employment situation of Venezuelan households, the study indicates that there is a high concentration of the population of inactive age and of pregnant or lactating women, which makes it difficult for these sectors of the population to enter the labor market, punished by precariousness.

Thus, the main needs in the community environment are access to drinking water, the low presence of public social services, as well as the lack of electricity due to constant interruptions in the supply.

In fact, the incidence of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) focuses mainly on the segments of health (two million people reached), sanitation and hygiene (960,000), protection (670,000 ) and nutrition (410,000).

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