GOAL, is stepping up its efforts to assist thousands of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage across the continent.
Speaking at a seminar organized by the Irish Center for Human Rights and the Colombian Embassy in Ireland, GOAL’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernard McCaul, said “Over five million Venezuelans have left their homeland in recent years due to numerous economic and political crises. Basic supplies such as food, medicine and fuel are in short supply.”
The event was hosted by NUI Galway and saw a number of government representatives, academics and civil society agencies come together to discuss approaches to the crisis.
Colombia has taken in the biggest share of Venezuelans. Up to 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants are estimated to reside in the county, with over half not having legal status. When the migrants arrive in Colombia their most urgent needs are food, shelter and income support.
GOAL is currently operating in Colombia, helping thousands of Venezuelans to support themselves and their families. The agency is providing support to migrant and host communities.
Many of the communities are located in disaster prone areas, at high risk of flooding and landslides. In addition to mitigation projects, GOAL is helping communities recover economically. With funding from USAID, the NGO is providing training, technical assistance and capital assistance to help individuals build resilient livelihoods.
The NGO is also supporting individuals who have set up their own business. One is Ines Flores, (54), who arrived in Colombia in 2016. In her efforts to survive she began to sell cakes and other baked goods in the informal market. GOAL has provided her with cash to invest in her business and buy supplies.
She says: “With this cash assistance I have been able to undertake more work as I can buy more supplies and grow my business.”
Earlier this year GOAL welcomed the Colombian Government’s decision to grant Venezuela migrants temporary protected status for up to 10 years with a route to citizenship. This new status will allow migrants like Ines find formal employment and access healthcare and other essential services including vaccination against COVID 19.
GOAL’s Bernard McCaul, said: “With so many of the migrants not having legal status, they are unable to find work and so rely on the informal economy. They end up living in precarious conditions, often sleeping on the streets with little or no access to basic services. This new measure is very welcome.”
Colombia has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic with over 2 million cases and 56,000 deaths.
Venezuelan migrants have seen their already dire situation compounded by the pandemic with many work opportunities closed and cramped living conditions has allowed the disease to spread rapidly.