Venezuelan Migration in 2021: COVID-19, Elections, and Human Rights

The journey for Venezuela migrants now begins at their own front door, said experts.


  • Diego Beltrand, Special Envoy of the Director General for the Regional Response to the Venezuelan Situation, International Organization for Migration
  • Ligia Bolivar, Center for Human Rights, Universidad Católica Andrés Bello
  • Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian, Director, Department of Social Inclusion, Organization of American States (OAS)
  • Tamara Taraciuk Broner, Acting Americas Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch
  • Tim Padgett, Americas Editor, Miami NPR affiliate WLRN (moderator)

With a shortage of gasoline, the Venezuelan migrants’ walking journey now begins at their front door, said Ligia Bolivar, and they’re vulnerable to extortion along the way. By the time they get to the border with Colombia, “they already arrive tired, exhausted, and with nothing in their pockets because everything they took for the trip has been taken by uniformed people in Venezuela,” she said at an AS/COA panel. “And that’s just the beginning of the trip.” Some migrants have returned during the pandemic too once economies in host countries shut down. But upon return, they were required to stay in quarantine centers, which said Tamara Taraciuk Broner, “actually promote the spread of the disease” due to overcrowding and an inability to social distance, as well as limited access to water.

For those migrants who remain abroad, many face varying levels of xenophobia. The xenophobia can be understood—and combatted—both on economic terms by offering jobs to both locals and migrants, as well as culturally, by countering false claims about the migrants and their contributions to society, said Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian. To wit, to meet the basic humanitarian needs of the more than 5 million Venezuelans abroad will require $1.4 billion, said Diego Beltrand, an effort in which the private sector has an important role to play.