Faced with increasing arrivals from Venezuela, UNHCR steps up response in northern Chile

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Since November 2021, between 400 and 500 Venezuelan refugees and migrants have crossed the border between Bolivia and Chile every day, driven by the desire to reunite with their families, as well as by the economic impact of Covid-19.

Since November 2021, between 400 and 500 Venezuelan refugees and migrants have crossed the border between Bolivia and Chile every day, according to local authorities. They are driven by the intention to reunite their family members, as well as by the economic impact of Covid-19 which has left many of them destitute.

Undocumented, hungry and in poor health

Most Venezuelans take irregular routes, braving the remote Atacama Desert, where dangers include the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse by criminal groups. They come on foot, without clothing adapted to the extreme climatic conditions of the desert, where the days are very hot and the night temperatures can drop to -20 C.

Many arrive hungry and in poor health, suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, hypothermia and altitude sickness.

Some 21 people have lost their lives on Chile’s northern border since the start of the year.

New arrivals often do not have adequate shelter and are forced to sleep under the stars. As they do not have proper papers, they cannot find regular employment and, without resources, they have difficulty in continuing their journey from border areas to other towns.

“Children, adolescents, pregnant women and the elderly often need urgent medical support after several days of traveling on foot. All hope to find security and stability in Chile, ”said Rebeca Cenalmor-Rejas, head of the UNHCR national office in Chile.

Guarantee safe access and improve reception conditions

“UNHCR is strengthening its response at the northern border, in order to support national, regional and local authorities to guarantee safe access and improve reception conditions,” explained Ms. Cenalmor-Rejas.
In coordination with the authorities and the support of partners, UNHCR provides information and legal advice to newly arrived Venezuelans.

The Agency also provides food, cash assistance, fuel vouchers, medical care, emergency shelter, nurseries, as well as basic relief items, such as blankets and clothing. ‘winter.

Since the beginning of the year, with the resources available, UNHCR has assisted 20,000 refugees and migrants from Venezuela in the northern regions of Chile.

It is increasing its numbers and partners on the northern border, in order to reach more vulnerable Venezuelans.

In order to control Covid-19, UNHCR is also working with local and national authorities to set up a center in the city of Iquique where new arrivals will undergo the required quarantine under safe and dignified conditions.

Anticipating that Venezuelans will start looking for opportunities in other regions of the country, during the year 2021, the Agency has in parallel strengthened its collaboration with five partners to distribute aid in the cities of southern Chile. .

“UNHCR, as part of the inter-agency response, is committed to providing relief to people in need and the communities that host them. However, timely support from the international community is crucial so that we can continue to develop our programs, ”added Ms. Cenalmor-Rejas.

In 2022, UNHCR will need a total of US $ 20.3 million to ensure adequate humanitarian assistance and help Venezuelan communities become self-reliant across the country.
In total, Chile is home to around 448,100 refugees and migrants from Venezuela. This figure does not take into account the thousands of people who entered the country through irregular border crossings.

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