Venezuelan refugee crisis

Venezuela’s deepening crisis has triggered the largest migration flow of its kind in recent Latin American history. Latin America has seen situations of refugee crisis and mass exoduses before: In the decades after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, about 1.4 million Cubans have fled from the island mainly towards the US. Between the 1980s and 1990s more then a quarter of the population of El Salvador were forcefully displaced during a brutal civil war. In contrast to the refugee crises in Europe and Africa the one taking place in Venezuela has its origins in an economic breakdown and not in war.


Venezuela, located on the northern coast of South America is rich on oil. Since the former president Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, nationalized the oil companies, the county’s economy is completely dependable on oil. As the oil price dropped in 2014/2015 Hugo Chavez successor Nicolas Maduro had to face some severe economic difficulties in his country. In an attempt of trying to regain control of the economic situation, the government started to print money, which then caused an inflation rate of 2000% in 2017. Because of this enormous rate of inflation, many international companies have reduced or shut down their Venezuelan operations.


Additionally to the economic crisis there is much discontent - coming from neighbouring countries, the international community and especially the Venezuelan people - regarding the authoritarian practices of president Maduro and his regime. This has caused demonstrations across the entire country multiple times, with the biggest one of these crackdowns of dissent starting in approximately April 2017. During the following months April until July Venezuela’s Security forces together with armed pro-government groups have systematically used violence against anti-government protesters. A joint report from by Human Rights Watch and the Penalty Forum based on in-country research presents these cases of violence and arbitrary arrests, and various forms of human rights violations committed by the Maduro regime and its allies.


Human right violations such as the ones that took place between April and July 2017 have let to numerous countries imposing sanctions upon Venezuela. The sanctions most referred to have been the ones acted out by the US, starting in August 2017 and have been increased since. The EU and other countries (for example Switzerland and Canada) followed with sanctions. In March 2018, the UN Human Right Council expressed concerns against sanctions and their consequences for the nation’s economic growth and social development.


The failure of the Maduro administration resulted in a nationwide famine and shortages of basic consumer goods, medicine, and medical supplies. This led to a refugee crisis, which directly affects all countries of Latin America. According to U.N. figures 2.3 million Venezuelans, constituting about 7% of the population have left their homeland over the past couple of years. Other estimates place the number closer to 4 million. The nations close to the Venezuelan border can hardly cope with the amount of refugees fleeing their home everyday. Ecuador for example has chosen to close the border to refugees that do not hold a passport - most of the refugees do not possess a passport as the government of Venezuela has stopped handing them out. As a result of this overwhelming situation, an atmosphere of xenophobia seems to be spreading in Latin America, with locals in various nations demonstrating, resulting in violent actions against the arriving refugees.


Although the situation looks really bad, president Maduro is still in charge, and due to the loyalty of the army, police and government officials it does not seem like this is going to change despite the international pressure. Maduro consistently blames the “imperialist” foes abroad seeking to reverse the country’s revolution begun by Hugo Chávez. This makes it even harder to send help to the suffering population as their president continues to turn down humanitarian aid from the UN and non-governmental institutions.


Venezuela’s severe economic and political situation has caused a refugee crisis, which is increasingly difficult to tackle, especially for the neighbouring countries directly and first of all affected by the refugee flows. The General Assembly must work together in order to firstly deal with the refugees and secondly address the root cause of the problem: the situation in Venezuela.


Links to help you start with your research


Human rights violations:

Xenophobia spreading in Latin America:

EU and US sanctions against Venezuela:

The UN Human Right Council (OHCHR) response to the sanctions: