The federal government provide $115 million in aid over two years for millions of Venezuelan asylum seekers living in countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean, said International Development Minister Karina Gould.
⚫️Calgary to Montreal— Karina Gould (@karinagould) June 17, 2021
⚫️Halifax to Winnipeg
This is the distance so many Venezuelans travel by foot to seek refuge and access to basic needs and services.
Yet, this crisis has gone largely unnoticed and unreported.
This is why Canada is hosting today’s Donors’ Conference. pic.twitter.com/KwWqc2420R
The continued departure of refugees and migrants from Venezuela is one of the largest external displacement crises in the world with over 5.6 million people leaving the country in the last few years according to the UN refugee agency.
Canada is hosting a donors conference Thursday to raise US$1.44 billion needed to implement a response plan put together by 159 organizations across the countries that host refugees and migrants from Venezuela. The plan is aimed at establishing longer-term resilience and integration solutions for close to 3.3 million Venezuelans and host community members.
Gould said the refugee crisis is having a significant effect on host countries especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Canada wants to help them aid Venezuelan asylum seekers with including food assistance, health care, education and employment opportunities.
"It is a very fragile situation right now," she said in an interview.
"So many Venezuelan migrants were the first to lose their jobs, and have had a really difficult time regaining employment because of the pandemic."
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the conference that one out of four Venezuelan immigrant and refugee children are now separated from one or both of their parents. One third of them go to bed hungry and nearly two thirds have not made it to school since the start of the pandemic, he said.
"This conference comes at a critical juncture," he said.
"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage Latin America and the Caribbean, refugees and migrants from Venezuela are facing growing protection challenges."
Eduardo Stein, who is the joint special representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration, told the conference the exodus of Venezuelans risks becoming a forgotten crisis as it is prolonged over time.
He host countries have shown solidarity with Venezuelan refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic but their national capacities have been dangerously strained by the virus.
"The task is more challenging than ever," he said.
He said the international community has the responsibility to support hosting countries to ensure regional stability, as a shortfall in funding would leave hundreds of thousands unprotected, with few options to rebuild a life in dignity.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said many Venezuelans had no option but to leave their country after six consecutive years of economic contraction and social and political crisis.
"The arrival of so many refugees and migrants in other countries is exacerbating social and economic tensions, and Venezuelans are facing increasing discrimination and xenophobia," Guterres said.
"(Venezuelans) have vast potential to generate new opportunities and benefits for the receiving communities, but this requires inclusive policies that promote the socio-economic integration of migrants and refugees."
Gould said Canada has decoupled the humanitarian crisis, which she says has been underfunded, from the political crisis in Venezuela to avoid politicizing the assistance.
"That is a really important principle to stand by to ensure that (the aid) gets to the people who need it," she said.
However, Gould added the crisis in Venezuela is not the result of a conflict or a natural disaster but a political crisis and the only way to solve it will be through a political solution.
"Canada, through the work of the minister of foreign affairs and the Lima Group, is actively involved in trying to find a political solution," she said.
Ottawa has contributed $86 million to support Venezuelan refugees since 2019, she said.
Last year, the organizations helping Venezuelan asylum seekers appealed for US$1.41 billion, but this appeal was just 47.1 per cent funded by the end of the year, according to he UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration.
The European Union and Spain hosted a donors conference last year where the countries and organizations participating in it committed to US$2.79 billion in funding, including US$653 million in grants.