The experience of Venezuelan refugees in Colombia and Peru

By Mark Feierstein and Kalindi Winfield

In the face of the Venezuelan refugee crisis – which has pushed millions of Venezuelans into other countries and is already the largest refugee crisis in Latin American history – we commissioned GBAO with conducting a survey to understand better the experiences and intentions of Venezuelan refugees.

The findings of this survey – documented in the report that follows – provide valuable insights for any organization working on this crisis; they also underscore notably the need and opportunity for the business community to help Venezuelan refugees.

Research was authored by Mark Feierstein and Kalindi Winfield at GBAO

The report makes clear that many Venezuelans will remain displaced for many years to come. The vast majority of Venezuelans interviewed said they will not return home as long as Nicolas Maduro or his allies remain in power, even if the economic situation improves. And even in the most optimistic scenario, one in five Venezuelan refugees reported that they would not return home – suggesting that close to a million Venezuelan refugees may be permanently displaced. These findings are consistent with what we’ve seen in many places around the world, where one in two refugees is displaced for 20 years or more. What we’ve learned in situations of protracted displacement is that economic integration becomes all the more important, and we see the business community as playing a critical role in that effort.

The report also highlights a number of areas where Venezuelans are not being adequately integrated into the economy or realizing their economic potential. For example, the report highlights that only 15 percent of Venezuelans in Colombia have access to banking services – far lower than others in their host society, or for that matter than in Venezuela itself. This is a key constraint and impediment for Venezuelans. The report also highlights a range of ways that Venezuelans can be properly integrated into the labor market. For instance, many Venezuelans have professional experience in sectors that have local labor shortages – like manufacturing in Colombia or office support in Peru – and could be recruited into these harder-to-fill roles. These are all areas where the business community have a powerful opportunity to do much more to integrate refugees.

Ultimately, our hope is that this research will make it easier and more compelling for companies to engage with Venezuelan refugees as productive members of their new communities throughout Latin America.