Explainer: Why has the exodus of refugees from Venezuela to the US accelerated?

Oct 18 (Reuters) – U.S. and Mexican authorities recently announced a new policy that would expel Venezuelans who enter the U.S. land border back into Mexico, but allow up to 24,000 people from the country to apply for humanitarian entry through United States by air.

As a result of the new policy, thousands of Venezuelans believed to have been headed to the United States are now stranded between the two countries for a year in which Venezuelans arrive at the US border in record numbers.


Measures responding in part to political pressure on US President Joe Biden to curb the record number of illegal border crossings between the US and Mexico. Venezuelans have been one of the largest groups of migrants involved in such 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 because the two countries broke diplomatic relations in 2019, making it difficult to organize deportation flights.

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More than 150,000 Venezuelans were apprehended at the US-Mexico border between October 2021 and August 2022, compared to nearly 48,000 in fiscal year 2021, according to US government data. In September, more than 33,000 Venezuelans were found on the U.S.-Mexico border, more than the number of people who crossed the border from Mexico and more than immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras combined, according to data from the US government


Those in transit may attempt to reach the United States despite the near certainty that they will be sent back to Mexico. So far, Mexican authorities have given many of these people no more than two weeks to leave the country. It is unclear where Venezuelans waiting in Mexico will be housed, as Mexico’s migrant shelter system is often overwhelmed.

Some may return to Venezuela, while others may settle in different Latin American countries, where Venezuelan migrants have in some cases faced discrimination, limited job opportunities and restrictions on their immigration status.

Half of the Venezuelan refugee and migrant population in Latin America and the Caribbean cannot afford three meals a day and lack access to housing, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), forcing many to resort to work. sex or begging.


Venezuelans who meet the US requirements can apply to the recently announced US program. Requirements include having a US-based supporter and having a valid passport. The cost of a passport in Venezuela is $200, almost ten times the country’s minimum wage.

Only 1% of 1,591 migrants who left Venezuela between June and August had a passport, according to the Social Research Observatory, a rights group.


Under the late President Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, the country with the world’s largest oil reserves overcame corruption and inflation.

Then, in 2014, Venezuela’s economy collapsed as global 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 prospered with products ranging from cooking oil to cornmeal.

In 2018, inflation in Venezuela exceeded one million percent. Medicines were not available for conditions ranging from headaches to cancer.


Despite some improvements after the opening of the economy in 2019 that included informal dollarization, most Venezuelans still struggle to pay for basic goods and services. Efforts by the government of Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, to ease economic restrictions have eased shortages and fueled consumption in high-income groups, but left the vast majority of the population with wages well below the cost of living. life.

The minimum monthly salary in the OPEC member country is around 15 dollars, while the price of a basket of goods that covers the monthly needs of a family of five was around 370 dollars at the end of September, according to the Venezuelan Financial Observatory. nongovernmental.

Even in the commerce and services sector of relatively prosperous Caracas, employees earn an average of just $130 a month. Meanwhile, in the public sector, which employs about 2.2 million, the average monthly salary is about $20 to $30.

Economists say 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 City Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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