The Humanitarian Crisis of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees

The crisis of displaced persons from Venezuela should be address from the humanitarian perspective to achieve three objectives: (i) protect the human rights of the Venezuelan migrants and refugees; (ii) facilitate a safe, orderly and regular migration to promote economic growth, and (ii) facilitate the financial international cooperation. Those are the objectives of the recently approved Decree No. 216 of 1 March 2021, issued by the Government of Colombia, and the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) granted by the United States Government on March 8, 2021. This event presents a multi-disciplinary approach to the crisis of displaced persons from Venezuela considering its current situation in Colombia; its impact on the inclusion of vulnerable sectors; the economic impact of the Venezuelan migration; the Internacional financing of the crisis and the humanitarian standards that should be applied.

Speakers: Lala Lovera, Founder of the NGO "Comparte una Vida" of Colombia, she has been dedicated to the field of social work for more than 15 years. Betilde Muñoz, Director of the Department of Social Inclusion at the Organization of American States. Ana María Ibáñez, Economics Principal Advisor, Inter-American Development Bank and professor at the University of the Andes. Dany Bahar, senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution an associate at the Growth Lab. José Ignacio Hernández G, Fellow at the Growth Lab and professor at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. Moderated by David Smolansky, commissioner of the OAS Secretary-General for the Crisis of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees.


Jose Ignacio Hernandez: [00:00:04] Well, good morning, everybody, and welcome to this event about The Humanitarian Crisis of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees and The Temporary Status of Migrant Protections. My name is Jose Ignacio Hernandez and it is a pleasure on behalf of the Growth Lab, to welcome you. I will introduce the moderator of this event, David Smolansky, who is the Commissioner of the Organization of American States for the crisis of Venezuelan migrants and Refugees. David, welcome. [00:00:39][35.2]

David Smolansky: [00:00:42] Thank you so much, Jose Ignacio, and thank you to the Harvard Growth Lab for organizing this very important seminar about the humanitarian crisis of Venezuelan migrants and refugees and the temporary status of migrant protections. The Venezuelan refugee crisis is the largest in the history of the region and projects to be the largest in the world, surpassing Syria. At the moment of this conference, 5.5 million Venezuelans have fled their country because of shortages of food, shortages of medicine, human rights violation, crimes against humanity, general violence, lack of services and the collapse of the economy. This unprecedented outflow has created so many challenges in the region from Colombia, with 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees, to Peru with one million Venezuelan migrants and refugees, to Mexico with more than 100,00, to the US with more than 400,000. But apart from the challenges, it has created plenty of opportunities for the receiving countries. So to discuss these challenges and these opportunities, it's an honor for me to moderate this great panel with experts from different areas that during the last years in their roles have been addressing this refugee crisis. With us will be today Lala Lovera which is the founder of the NGO Comparte Una Vida. She has been working in Colombia for more than 15 years. Betilde Munoz, a colleague from the Organization of American States, is the director of the Department of Social Inclusion at the OAS, it's an honor for me to present her. Ana Maria Ibanez, Economics Principal Adviser of the Inter-American Development Bank. And Mr. Dany Bahar who is a senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution and Associate at the Growth Lab. Thank you all for being here and for making time on your busy agenda to have this seminar and thanks Jose Ignacio, also for making this possible. Jose Ignacio Hernandez is a fellow at the Growth Lab, and Professor at Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, of course, will be with us during the whole seminar today. So with that, I'll give the floor to Lala Lovera. Every speaker will have 10 minutes. Please be respectful of time. After everyone has their ten minutes, we have a discussion for 30 minutes where we're going to answer some questions from the audience and also questions that I've been preparing after the presentation of the panel. So with that, I give the floor to Lala. Thank you. [00:04:00][197.6]

Lala Lovera: [00:04:02] Well, thank you. Thank you, David, and thank you Jose Ignacio for inviting me to this wonderful space, which for us raising the voice and being the voice of all those immigrants that we have been working since 2018 in Columbia. It's a wonderful work. So as David said, I'm leading a team that we are working on the field. It's in the border with Venezuela and Colombia and, well all over Colombia, but I'm going to focus today about this migration, which right now 2021 I think it's important for us to have what we call the x ray of this migration. I think it's important. So I am the executive director of Comparte Una Vida Colombia. And I'm going to present an infographic. Let me put it here so everybody can see it, can you confirm that? Yes. Great, so we all know that there's almost 2.5 million migrants in Colombia right now. These are the official numbers, but today I want to talk about the pendular migration, which is not a new migration we can say it's the oldest one, it's typical migration. It's the typical conduct of this border. But now we have, today we can say we have 365 days of a border closed, but it's only a border. Just seven bridges are closed because we know because we work in the field, I like to call it the ground zero of this migration crisis, that the border is not closed. So right now, as we speak, almost 7,000, between 7,000 and 8,000 people are crossing that border through the irregular crossing points, which are called trochas. Those trochas, as you can see here, are all controlled by the irregular groups, illegal groups, which are constantly violating the rights and fundamental rights of these people. OK, there are escaping. We all know the reason they are hungry. They are looking for health and attention. So we need to understand this, that we think that the border is closed, but the border is not closed. That's not a reality where you go to the border and you see what's happening. So this between 7,000-8,000 people crossing the border, 80% go back and forth every day. 80%, OK, and 20% are in transit. They're are going back also to... they're going to Peru or they're going to stay in Colombia and everything. But the worst part of this is 65% are children alone, most of them OK. So this increases all the vulnerabilities and all the violations and their rights are not covered. So we in the field, as we were telling you, we have three years working with this pendular migration and we find out that 42% of these children are in malnourishment. They only have less than one dollar to feed themselves when they cross the border. So the situation won't change in which side of where they are. If they are in Venezuela, they cross the border to find some food, but they won't find some food. And 70% of these people are irregular. They don't have access to any document, not in Venezuela and not in Colombia. This is a very important thing. They don't have a passport or if they have they will be robbed. Most of them get robbed to get the passports or the paper that will explain who they are. So we don't know who these people are. Also how they are living in this pendular situation. 65% of the migrants don't have a fixed income. They work for informality. So when the pandemic arrived and there was a call to stay at home and a quarantine, this is totally impossible for these people because they need to go to the streets because they work in an informal, their only income comes from the informal work. So this raises, again, their fundamental rights, this raises again the exposure to all the violence that are receiving them in the country, in Colombia. And this is something that we are working in our team and we're having this think tank about who's receiving this pendular migration, who are receiving them and who are getting the routes for them for attention. Those are irregular groups of Colombia and Venezuela. We have been seeing what's happening in Arouca, who's the front in the river in this irregular path receiving these children? Also, 35% of them, they only have one smartphone and they don't have any connections. So the first fundamental right of education, they are not covering that. Most of them are crossing the border to get education and to get to school. But this is impossible for them. And also, again, who's raising their voice in these children, these children are youngsters head of their family households. We have to understand this. These are children. They need to go to the streets to get the household of their whole family. And we're talking about families, five persons per family, but they host between 12 and 18 persons in the same room. This is the way this pendular migration lives and they only have one smartphone. Also, 40% of these families, they don't have access to permanent energy or to safe water. So when they face COVID just imagine not having water. So it's terrible. And we're talking about all this information is in the Colombian side. They're looking for this. They crossed the border irregular way in an informal way with no organization. And they find this. Also in education, I think it's one of the... we're trying to see what is going to happen, and I think these kind of spaces, it's the proper spaces to raise this voice. These children since 2018 have been going to schools in Colombia. But if they are irregular and they don't have any document, they won't get the diploma or a letter that says that they graduate. If they don't have that, they won't have access to higher education, to some formal education or not even a formal job. I know that we're waiting for this new document for Colombia, but how these people are going to reach for that, if they are in Venezuela side, they don't live in Colombia, they're pendular and we are talking about 70% of that migration. So this is something that really, really are raising our alarms. We can't start promoting education if they won't get the final step, that is going to continue for at least a formal job because we're going to continue in the circle of this. Of that 70% that are irregular and irregular groups are going to continue raising their voice on a higher way. The only way these children and these youngsters that as I told you, I think that the drama is they are head of the family household. This is a reality. We can't change that. So we need to see what is going to happen. And also the access to education. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's so frustrating because these are children that has been for two or three years. They drop out from school, so they are unschooled. So access into a system that they don't know, it's totally a fantasy. So we're trying to get these safe spaces for them in order not only to assist to school, but to stay in school. About health, but we all know that is one of the biggest issues here in Colombia, addressing health to the irregular migration and the pendular, which are I think 60% or 70% of people cross the border in order to find some treatment because they have chronic disease, they have preexisting diseases. So I think this is important. Also, 90% of these pendualr migrants, they don't have access to health care services only in an emergency. But when COVID arrived, so the emergency is only COVID, of course. In mental health issues we also see that they are a constant victim. They are not a victim, but just crossed the border and they start to work on their mental health situation, no. This pendular migration, they are constant victims of Venezuela, of Colombia, of the border of the crossing, and not receiving them in the proper way and not having the proper routes for them. Of course, their mental health, it's totally devastated. So 62.5% of these families experience anger, frustration, violence because we have to understand they live in a violent situation. They live in a violent environment. So they are part of that. And the worst part that we see in our work in the field is that they normalize this violence and we can't normalize the violence. This is not normal being part of irregular groups is not normal, being part of the system of migrant trafficking is not normal. We can't normalize that. And we're working that with our youngsters. But it's so hard if we don't have a second card to say, "OK, don't do that, come here." In face of COVID, I think 23% of our families were infected by COVID, but only 10% were diagnosed by doctors. Most of them were like, well, "I think, I thought, I feel," but it wasn't and they didn't get treatment. And they cross the border again in order to find some treatment, in order to find and cover this. So what do we want to drop in the table today is that we have seen a lot of cooperation, of course, in the field. We see a lot of people working in the field we see the national government getting some actions, but we can't ignore the typical conduct of this border, which was the pendular migration, all the actions that we have seen and we are seeing they won't address these people. They won't address on the pendular migration. And we need to do this because this is the part that are in continue, as I said, violating their human rights. These are the people that will not get the stabilization. They won't get access. They don't know how to get access. So in our opinion, we need to understand how to receive these people in this side, because this is a reality that won't change in a long term time. So that's all my presentation, I got my time, ten minutes, no? [00:17:14][792.7]

David Smolansky: [00:17:17] You got your ten minutes, Lala. Very good. Thank you so much for sharing that very interesting slide and your presentation. And so next will be with us Betilde Munoz, as I said the Director of the Department of Social Inclusion at the Organization of American States. Betilde, the floor is yours. [00:17:34][17.2]

Betilde Munoz: [00:17:35] Thank you so much, David, for the introduction, for moderating the discussion, but also thank you for your leadership in shedding light on the situation of millions of Venezuelans, both in the country and outside the country so thanks so much. And also thanks to Professor José Ignacio Hernandez. Jose, thank you so much for provoking this discussion. That will continue to be relevant as long as the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is not resolved. So for my 10 minutes to kind of jumpstart the discussion, I wanted to focus on three big areas that perhaps could.. that definitely are relevant, but we may be able to address them in the Q&A period. Firstly, I wanted to just briefly reflect on the regularization or the importance of regularization for migrants and refugees from the angle of vulnerable populations and how strategic it is for their inclusion, I think Lala has just really put in human terms the importance of bringing these rights to to these populations and of course, also the limits of regularization processes in the region that we're seeing progress, but of course, there are some limits to that. Secondly, very briefly on xenophobia and discrimination and the challenges that remain. And I think that's very relevant for this discussion. And finally, I will be very brief, but I wanted to also put light on the particular situation of migrant Venezuelan women in at least some idea of why they have to be part of.. They have to be at the center of interventions to address the humanitarian crisis within Venezuela, but also outside. On the first issue of regularization, I always say those of you who are here and have heard me before, I always say that regularization is a door for Venezuelan migrants and refugees and from any nationality, really, for that matter, and it's the mandate that I have at the OAS to have full access to all their rights and for countries to really start that integration process that Lala was referring to. In other words, although it is not all, it is actually only the first step, regularization is very important when it comes to guaranteeing protection to displaced Venezuelans. Now, where are we in the region? I mean, if we were to take a broad look at the region in terms of regularization and how does this impact the lives of displaced Venezuelans? I definitely want to mention and this is a topic also the title of the event that is bringing us together today - measures such as the temporary protection status approved in Colombia. We do not talk much about it, but also the complementary protection option or measure that was approved in Costa Rica, which protects Venezuelans as well as Nicaraguans and Cubans in the country. The TPS that was approved in the US on March 8th. All of these measures are raising the bar in terms of protection standards for displaced populations. Of course, we can continue progressing to more protections and higher standards, but these are what I believe we see a positive evolution in protection and regularization measures to receive these populations. And it is positive. It's actually very positive because they are happening despite existing regulatory frameworks that may not have these options. So these are the responses, pragmatic responses that we're seeing on the part of countries in the region. And they're also happening despite economic restrictions, because all of these measures really have a cost for the national budgets of the countries that are receiving them. And they're still being approved, regardless of these economic restrictions that were really aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. So perhaps my main point or my first reflection on this point is that if this temporary protection exercises work well, I would think that we would be moving at the regional level towards a new wave of immigration regularization measures that are characterized by high levels of humanitarian solidarity, a high degree of innovation, really, comparatively speaking, to other regions in the world. And that will make it possible to take more advantage of the arrival of these populations. So which takes me to the second point on how these regularization measures impacts the lives of people, of Venezuelans in this receiving countries, and I always say that when these measures are approved and implemented the right way, it's a win win situation. The country that receives migrants and refugees wins because it allows them to know and characterize and identify the population that is in the country and then hopefully inform better or more effective design of public policies in response to the arrivals. And the displaced population also wins because they are able to access the regular status and hopefully many other rights that they would not necessarily have access to if they were in the country in irregularity. So if we were to think of concrete manifestations, I think Lala illustrated very well what happens when we maintain these populations in irregular status and the possibility of them sitting in a classroom, kids, for instance, migrant kids sitting in a classroom, and when they complete their course of study, receiving a letter that says that they completed this education and they can now access a university education or get a formal employment. These are concrete ways that regularization processes help. But in terms of the adult population, both men and women, we also see that regularization is the first step for them to be able to insert themselves in the formal economy. And Dany is here with us, as well as Ana Maria. They can reflect more on this. But in terms of from a human rights perspective, it also means that their rights will be protected, that they will not necessarily be subject to harassment, labor harassment, in the case of women, sexual harassment in the workplace. And a series of other benefits that start with that first step, which is regularization, health, access to medicines, paying Social Security and of course, a country that receives them also benefits in terms of them contributing with taxes and Social Security and all of this. Now, in terms of challenges or limits of these regularization processes, I wanted to map out a few just to get us going in the conversation. The first one is the existence of some requirements so that people can access these these documents or these benefits, migratory benefits. And for instance, in the case of Colombia, the requirement for them to have an I.D., a formal and valid I.D. and having had access the country via formal passings, when we know that Lala explained 60 to 70% of these populations are in irregular situation. A second one it has to be on how best to rule out people with criminal records or that are linked to criminal networks and so on from accessing the status. This issue of criminality is part of the political conversation and tends to justify xenophobic reactions against Venezuelans. So we have to see how to help countries granting these regularization options to eliminate it from xenophobic arguments, from more political conversations. A third one that I would also map out is a temporary nature of these measures. I mean, they have the t the temporary in their own definition. All of us who study and try to understand migratory processes find that this temporary nature is the Achilles heel of these responses that are happening in the sense that they may change as governments change. So I always say also that part of the conversation has to be how to ensure that these temporary measures are institutionalized somehow in the migratory law, or that there's some protections or candados that could be incorporated in the sense that they can be secure, even though there's changes in administration. And a final challenge is what I call 'the myth of the problem solved', OK, we did regularization measure ok this is problem solved. And it's not really like that. It's this idea that all is needed to ensure the protection and integration of Venezuelans is just this random regularization status? I just want to warn or a word of caution on this, because the real integration will occur when displaced Venezuelans can have dignified housing, as Lala was explaining, access to services, access to water, health and kids go to school and can eventually join a university or the formal market and the like. So that on the issue of regularization options. On xenophobia and discrimination, we cannot deny that the Venezuelans are being victims of xenophobia and discrimination throughout the region and much more with a pandemic that made resources more scarse. And of course, there's cultural explanations on the rejection of the foreigner. But I think for the region, a lot of the arguments are probably economic in the sense that the locals may feel that they are being displaced by the newcomers. But, of course, there's data that confirms this in the sense that although they come in very vulnerable material conditions, Venezuelans are bringing important human capital to the countries of destination. So there's this fear of the locals that will be displaced. I mean, we know that 35% of the Venezuelan population in Peru have a technical degree or higher. A figure that increases to 40% in the case of Ecuador, in the case of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Costa Rica, more than 50% of the migrants have a university degree and sometimes even a post graduate degree. So you can understand why there may be some resistance to their inclusion. But the good thing is, and we can talk about this more later is that there's policy responses that can come from the receiving countries in terms of capitalizing on these human talents, but also reducing this resistance on the part of the locals. And of course, from the point of view of the work we do at the OAS, crucial to this is ensuring that opportunities are given not just to the displaced populations, but also to the locals in the communities that are receiving them. I think I have more to say on this, but I will leave it at that so that I can just briefly close on the issue of Venezuelan migrant women. This is something that I think we all need to keep paying attention. We cannot lose sight of the particular reality of migration that Venezuelan women and their children are experiencing. Lala illustrated the case of so of the women at the border. But this is something that we are seeing all the way down to Argentina. We're seeing also in the countries of the Caribbean. And we see that at least recent trends before the pandemic, were showing what I call or what we're calling a feminization of the Venezuelan migration in the sense that women were and continue to migrate in similar levels as men. Recent anecdotal accounts on the part of Colombian authorities are telling us that there's a lot of migrant women walking with other women and a lot of children, not just theirs, but the children of other women that they're bringing in and reuniting with their mothers. So this is something that may end up being another point of crisis. Another point in the bigger or the macro level crisis of Venezuela migration. And this is something that we need to pay attention to. We had instances of employer abuse on the part of migrant Venezuelan women at the beginning of the year. We have data from CEPAS, an NGO in Venezuela that collects data on feminist studies, that are showing increases in the level of gender violence against migrant women and that have even ended up in the deaths of these women. So the goal is always to make women visible, not just in terms of the ways they are particularly affected by the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and outside of Venezuela, but also how to ensure that women can be part of the solution because they have things to contribute based on their or their own experience. I would leave it at that. David, thanks again and ready for the discussion. [00:31:14][818.3]

David Smolansky: [00:31:15] Thank you, Betilde. Now the floor is for Ana Maria Ibanez, as I said Economic Adviser of the Inter-American Development Bank. Ana Maria, the floor is yours. [00:31:23][7.0]

Ana Maria Ibanez: [00:31:34] Thank you very much, David. Thank you very much. Jose and the Harvard Growth Lab for inviting me for this conference. I hope you're seeing already the presentation. I am really very pleased to be sharing this important conversation with such a great panel and my presentation today will concentrate on preliminary results of a paper that we are doing with several colleagues from the IDB, the Universidad de los Andes and the University of Southern California. And it's really a very good follow up from Betilde Munoz's presentation, which is great because she was talking about regularization. And what we want to do precisely is to study the impacts of a regularization program, a large regularization program that happened in Colombia in 2018. So, as I say, Betilde did a very good and very thorough discussion on regularization programs and what happens with regularization programs, but the adoption of these programs is not frequent. It happens only in some countries, but it might be a very important policy to integrate migrants into societies. And also, I know what I would like to stress, that for countries to reap the benefits of a lot of migrants, I mean, migrants can bring a lot of benefits for development and the integration of these regularization programs may contribute to that. However, there is really high fears of a political backlash in many countries, and lack of evidence of the impact of these programs for countries. And this often leads to policy makers to avoid this discussion or to avoid approving regularization programs. The main argument being to protect, as Betilde says, the local vulnerable population, for example, with more competition in labor markets and prevent an overflow of the demand for social services in countries which already are facing tight fiscal demands. Nonetheless, the evidence on the effect of these programs is really quite limited, and most of it concentrates on developed countries and on the impacts for the locals and not necessarily for the migrants. So the paper that I'm going to present today and I'm just going to give you a very brief snapshot of what we're doing, and this is the first time that we present it is to estimate the effects of these massive regularization programs that happen in Colombia in 2018. And we want to estimate the impacts of the benefit on Venezuelans that were beneficiaries of the program. We analyze four dimensions: welfare, employment and labor conditions, integration, and health. But for the sake of time, I'm just going to concentrate on welfare, employment, and labor conditions and just some aspects of that. But what I anticipate is that the effects are large and are now important. Let me talk briefly about the program, because this is important. This is a program that was implemented in 2018 and the program did not started as a regularization process, really it started as a census that the Colombian government wanted to do to irregular migrants. And the purpose was to have a characterization, a social-economic characterization of these irregular migrants. The census started in 4,441 municipalities across Colombia, and the government tried to do a huge information campaign so that migrants registered. The time span was between April and June of 2018. Not all irregular migrants registered. There were fears of deportation and other types of fears and about 442,000 individuals registered, which amounts to around 253,000 households. Then the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, was leaving office and he decided to regularize all the people that had registered in this registry. Basically, what they had to do is to register online to request the permission and it had some conditions. They needed to have a document showing that they had a Venezuelan citizenship. They could not have a criminal records and and other things. They had from August to December to register. And about 64% of the people registered in the program and the benefits of the program are many I'm just going to concentrate on three that are important. The first one is that it provided legal migratory status for a short period of time. And this is very related to what Betilde said, it was a transitory program. It provided working permit. All the people that registered could work and it provided access to health, education and early childhood. And very importantly, it became an identification document for migrants to request bank accounts and other services. So what we want to do is to understand what were the benefits of this program for the migrants themselves. And I'm not going to go into the details of the empirical strategy. But I would like to tell you is what we wanted to do with the empirical strategy that we designed. Basically what we wanted was we carefully designed the empirical strategy to compare irregular migrants that were similar enough to the group of beneficiary migrants. And we did many things, but therefore we included in the sample irregular migrants that move to Colombia in the same time span as the ones that would benefit from the program, and we controlled for several characteristics of the migrants before migration and use econometric techniques to ensure that these two groups are the more similar as possible on observable variables, but unobservable as well. So we did a large a survey. It was very difficult because when we were going to go on the field, the pandemic started and we had to move to doing the surveys by phone. We were supported by several Venezuelan organizations. I see here that Juan Veloria is here Coalicion por Venezuela played a large role helping us to roll out the survey. For the treatment group, we have the PEP-RAMV we had the contact information of all the people that registered in the PEP-RAMV. We surveyed people that registered and did not register in PEP. We survey people that registered in RAM and registered in PEP and we contacted them using the cell phones. We have a sample of about 1,700 households. For the irregular migrants, which was quite a really large challenge. What we did is that we randomly selected irregular migrants from referrals that were provided by the treatment of the control group, but also from list of 13 organizations of migrants that very generously provided their lists such that we could extract that information and we contact the migrants. It was about 1,500 households that we surveyed. And as I say, this is where the migrant organizations were very fundamental to doing.. The sample is mostly in Bogota, Medellin and Barranquilla, but we have migrants all over in various other municipalities of Colombia. And I'm just going to show you some brief results, the first one and the first message that I want to convey is that the PEP really improved the welfare of migrants and the improvement is quite large. So here I am already showing the results of the econometric estimations. And here what you have is the per capita aggregate expenditure of the household. So what you see is that irregular migrants have 3.8 million aggregate expenditure per capita, whereas for the migrants that were similar to those irregular, the aggregate expenditure increased significantly. And what is very interesting with this is that it did not only improve the economic or the aggregate expenditure in economic terms and welfare in economic terms, but other dimensions of welfare that are related to what Lala was was referring to earlier. The second thing that we look at is food security. And what we find is that food security increases, but it's still at the levels of food insecurity are very high. So this is food security before the pandemic started. And what you see is that the again, the PEP beneficiaries had better food security than the irregular migrants. The difference is about eight percentage points. After the pandemic started, of course, food insecurity increased significantly. But what we find is that even though the pandemic was very difficult for all migrants, PEP somehow played a protective role and the benefits of PEP did not disappear due to the pandemic. And what you see again here is that food insecurity is higher for migrants. Then what we do, is that we try to look at other dimensions of welfare. And here what we have is a welfare index based on dimensions of health. And what we see here is that definitely the effect is huge. It's quite large. So in this index, what you see is that PEP migrants perceive that their health status is much better than those that are irregular. And here is what I'm referring to that is related to what Lala was mentioning. One part that is driving this difference in this index is the anxiety and depression. This is a percentage of people in the sample that said that they were anxious or depressed, extremely anxious or depressed. And what you see is that this is much is lower, more than half than for undocumented migrants. And then to finish up just here, another important message is that PEP was very important to improve labor formalization, but more importantly so to improve labor conditions, which is something that Betilde was mentioning. And I didn't bring all of what we have for labor markets. But what you see is that hourly wages increase and the increase is significant. This is not only because they they work on formal jobs in a larger percentage, but because they were more empowered, it seems, to negotiate salaries and to have better conditions at work. Of course, our monthly income increases and what is important, formalization increases in 10 percentage points, not as much as we would have expected, because all of them can't work on the formal market. But it's increasing and this is something that we need to to look at. Lastly, job satisfaction is a little bit higher for people that were benefitting from PEP. So what I would like to finish with is that the regularization programs improve the economic and social conditions of migrants in a significant way. And here I'm repeating what Betilde was saying - it is important for migrants, but it's important for governments as well into in two respects. One is that the government is better able to locate migrants to better plan the assistance to the migrant population, but also to the local population that might be negatively affected in the short term and live together with the migrant population. But what I believe is the most important part is that in the long term, regularization contributes to maximize the positive impact of migration on economic development in the destination countries. And with that, I finish. Thank you very much. [00:43:55][741.7]

David Smolansky: [00:43:58] Thank you, Ana Maria, for a very interesting presentation, and we'll talk about it more during the discussion. So now give the floor to Dany Bahar. [00:44:10][11.9]

Dany Bahar: [00:44:22] Hi, everyone, thank you for those great... It's hard to follow up on all those great presentations, but I'll give it a try. So I think my Internet is not great, so I don't know if you're not hearing me, just move your hands or something so that I'll know. I'll speak slow and I'll keep it short just because of that. So I think I'm going to speak more in general from the economics perspective, maybe following up on on the excellent, magnificent story of Ana Maria and her coauthors. And let me start by saying again what David said at the beginning, which which I think it's important to let this sink in. This is the largest migration and refugee crisis in the history of the hemisphere and as of today, it's the second largest migration and refugee crisis in modern history. Definitely I mean, in the last decades, definitely since World War Two. And, you know, we need to let that sink in. This is not... it is like a massive, massive movement of people in our region. And I think Jose Ignacio can speak to this in a region that was not prepared to experience this movement of people. Ironically, the country in the region that was prepared and had a history of receiving immigrants was Venezuela for decades and now the tables have turned and all the other countries didn't really have, you know, the basic legislation to deal with this huge crisis. And, you know, comparing these, I'm not going to make a very thorough comparison with the Syrian crisis because, you know, different context, different regions. I mean, it's really comparing apples to elephants, not even apples to oranges. But there are a few things that I think are worth mentioning on the differences that we see. The first one is also something that it's very moving, but it also it's a reality, despite all the issues that we've been hearing from the great presentation from Lala and Betica and all the hurdles we see, I think it is.. in the big scheme of things, I think it's important to see that the countries in the region are at least trying to some extent to... are willing to deal with the proper policies to really benefit from this opportunity differently and say this in contrast to perhaps many European countries dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis or even Turkey or to some extent, Jordan and Lebanon. So I think we see here an interesting phenomenon that it's going to go for research in the future on why Latin American countries have been at least willing, not perfectly far from perfect, but at least willing to engage in a way that could convert this into an opportunity. And this is really important because they've been doing this on their own for the most part, and when I mean on their own, I'm talking in particular about the resources that are typically hugely important to deal with this massive crisis. And I think part of the reason I'm here today with you is because a story that we published a couple of years ago and we updated earlier this year on the vast differences that when you compare the Venezuelan refugee crisis with others, you do see a huge disparity, huge disparity in the resources of the international community that are going to the countries in the region. And we did that calculation. It's online on the Brookings website. But just to give you the headline is that when you take you look at all the money that that has been committed in terms of aid and assistance from the international community to the countries in the region. And you compare that, for instance, to all the money that has been committed from international assistance to other crisis. You know, the Venezuelan refugee crisis is, as David said at the beginning, it's on its way to be the largest refugee crisis in modern history. But it's also by far the most underfunded crisis in modern history. And the numbers are clear when we look at resources per refugee. In the case of Syria, we see about more than $3,000 have gone per refugee from the international community, whereas in the case of Venezuela, the number is less than three hundred. So it's more than a tenfold difference. And this is crucially important because despite all the difficulties that despite the fact that these countries in the region were not prepared for this massive flow, and despite that, they're trying to do their best and they're doing a lot of mistakes. They're doing this essentially without any help from the international community. And this help is crucial. It's crucial in the very short term for humanitarian reasons. I mean, there's people, as it was said before, you know, people at the Venezuelan situation, it's complex. And if you look at any socioeconomic indicator of Venezuela today, you would think that you're talking about a country that is in civil war by any means. All of this, of any socio-economic indicator you take from Venezuela, it's comparable to the worst-performing countries in the world after having gone through some sort of conflict. So a lot of these refugees, if not most of them, are coming with huge humanitarian needs. They're coming undernourished. They need medical assistance. They need a place to stay. And these funds have to go first and foremost to help the humanitarian aspect. But it's not only that, it shouldn't stop there. And for the past few years, I've been calling on the fact that these resources are critical for labor integration. And I think that this follows up on Ana Maria's point because, and I'm going to talk about this in a couple of minutes, but the funding is not only for humanitarian needs, it's also to assure that these immigrants are integrating into their local economies and as such, allowing them to reach their full potential. So let me just talk about that for a few minutes and then I'll stop. I want to say that the conditions for a proper integration of these Venezuelan's into the local labor force are there. In the sense that if you look at the data and look in particular data from Colombia. But I'm pretty certain that this applies to all the other countries, when you look at the Venezuelans that have arrived to Colombia, they are on average younger than the local labor force and on average, much more, not much more, slightly more educated. So there is huge potential for them to integrate into the local labor forces in a way that could really bring important benefits. But many of these Venezuelans, as we know, has said before there they have an undocumented status. They don't have a, quote-unquote, legal status in the country. And the first step and I think that what Ana Maria just showed is, you know, it makes it pretty obvious to all of us. The first step is to provide them with papers so they will be able to join the labor force. And Ana Maria has shown that this has important benefits to the migrant themselves. And here, of course, Betica mentioned Colombia, who just passed a project to give an amnesty to 1.8 million Venezuelans out of which one million are undocumented for a 10 year status. And Betica also mentioned Costa Rica. And there are other less generous, but there are other measures being taken in the region. But it's not only there. It's not only that. I mean, providing the legal status, providing documents, it's hugely important. This is a binding constraint. But it has to go beyond that because, you know, finding a job is hard. It's hard for all of us. Right. I mean, you need to know people. You need to maybe have the time to look for a better match. And, you know, many of us I can speak for myself, I think, but maybe many of us are privileged and have the time to wait and perhaps have some resources to make it happen. You know, for refugees, it's even harder. So this is important. I just have a couple of minutes to finish. I'm going to say something else. The reason that this... You know, beyond giving the status, the reason that the funding is crucially important, it's because whenever you have such an inflow of people into an economy, there's a lot of fear that maybe if they all get jobs, salaries are going to go down, unemployment is going to increase. And in a paper, joint with Ana Maria and Sandra Rosa, who's one of the best Colombian economists. Both are some of the best Colombian economists. We together show that in the first round of amnesties, the one that Ana Maria was talking, there was no... zero effect on the local labor market. So there's really no big evidence to fear that providing access to the labor markets is going to result in negative effects. But I want to go back to the point I made about funding and with this I'll stop. The importance of funding is not only about humanitarian assistance, it's about labor market integration, because the only way that firms, the private sector will be able to integrate and to bring on Venezuelans and Colombians, or Venezuelans and Chileans, or Venezuelans and Argentinians, or Venezuelans and Bolivians, and Ecuadorians, is going to be through the private sector and through the expansion of the private sector. So it's important that a lot of this funding will also go to infrastructure. It will go to credits to small firms and medium firms that can expand, they can hire people because in other countries, in Latin American countries, these are things that are, regardless of immigration, are already lagging behind. So when we think about funding is not only about humanitarian, it's also crucial for labor market integration. I'll stop here. I was told by somebody that I look like a lawyer that I said, I'm going to speak shortly and I spoke for long... [00:56:07][705.6]

David Smolansky: [00:56:12] Thank you Dany for your presentation. And in talking about lawyers. Now, we're going to have one speaking it's Dr. Jose Ignacio Hernandez, Fellow at the Growth Lab and Professor at the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, my alma mater by the way, of Caracas, Venezuela. So Jose Ignacio, floor is yours. [00:56:30][18.6]

Jose Ignacio Hernandez: [00:56:32] Thank you so much, David. It's a pleasure again to be here. And after these wonderful presentations, I'm going to summarize how humanitarian law can facilitate the global balance of the Venezuelan humanitarian displacement crisis. There are three main problems regarding the Venezuelan massive displacement crisis, the first one is how to assure humanitarian standards of protection, including and I would say particularly the non-refoulment right. That is, as we all know, a problem that has been present, for instance, in Trinidad and Tobago, with several problems there. The second is how to promote an orderly and secure migration as a favorable condition for economic growth. And finally, how to coordinate multilateral policies, particularly in financing, as Dany explained. And the main problem that we have from an institutional perspective or from a legal perspective, is that the international law does not provide a clear framework to address a unique crisis like the Venezuelan, because there are too many concepts. We have the concept of migrants that is basically based on labor permits and residence. We then have the traditional concept story of refugees, according to the 1951 Convention that is based on particular cases of persecution. Then we have in the Inter-American System of Human Rights in 1948t Cartagena Declaration that expanded the refugee to cover cases of political, economic and social crisis. Then we also have the Refugee prima facie, which is basically temporary protection for refugees in massive crisis. And finally, according to the 2016 New York Declaration and the 2018 Global Pact, we have this idea of global mobilizations. In any case, uncommon problems require uncommon solutions. And this is the example of the Decree Number 216 enacted by the government of Colombia. This is an pragmatical approach, an uncommon solution, but in my opinion solves most of the problems that I referred to. First, the decree recognizes human rights standards of protections based on international humanitarian law. And this is very important that we frame the Venezuelan situation as a humanitarian crisis. However, the decree does not declare the refugee status, not even prima facie. But this is not relevant because at the end, from a pragmatical approach, that decree recognize the humanitarian standard of protections that are usefully related to the refugee status, particularly the decree allows residence rights that could promote an orderly and secure migration is a favorable condition for economic growth. But however, only regarding Venezuelans and displacing Colombia as of January 31, 2021. But there are some problems that the decree does not solve. First of all, the decree is a unilateral decision but the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela should be addressed from a multilateral approach. Basically two and three objectives. First, coordinate international financing. And this is something that I have been discussing deeply with Dany and David. Second, coordinate policies aimed to address the complex humanitarian emergencies because the Venezuelan displacement is a flaw. Eventually, the capacity of the host state, in this case, Colombia, may collapse if the humanitarian crisis is not solved. And Lala explains very well this situation of the pendular movement. So because we are talking about the flow of migrants and not only are stuck, it is necessary to solve the main cause of the migration crisis in Venezuela, which is the complex humanitarian emergency. This is why, in my opinion, the Venezuelan crisis should be framed as a humanitarian displacement crisis caused by the complex humanitarian emergency in Venezuela and the collapse of the state. And only a multilateral approach based on international human rights can solve the main three problems that I refer. First, recognizing human rights standards of protection of migrants, particularly in all of the region. Second, promote an orderly, secure migration as a favorable condition for economic growth, as was explained very well by Ana Maria Ibanez. And finally promote multilateral cooperation to solve the complex humanitarian emergency and the humanitarian displacement crisis, particularly regarding the finance problem. And now we have another issue here that should be mentioned that, as we all know, Latin America is facing, according to the recent macroeconomic report of the Inter-American Development Bank, the biggest recession since independence. And therefore, Latin American countries are facing several problems in terms of fiscal space. So in order to fulfill the humanitarian standards to protect Venezuelan displaced people, it is necessary to expand the public space. And for that purpose, it is necessary to find a comprehensive financial solution. Otherwise, the Venezuelan crisis will become a regional one with impact in all of the hemisphere. And just to finalize, I want to recall a basic statement of the 2016 New York Declaration that I think summarized the new trends regarding migration, refugees, mobilizations. "Large movement of refugees and migrants have political, economic, social development, humanitarian and human rights ramifications which cross all borders. These are global phenomena that call for a global approach and global solutions. No one state can manage such movement on its own." Not Colombia cannot manage the Venezuelan crisis on its own and only a global solution based on a regional approach, and we have the support of the Organization of American States for that purpose, will solve in a comprehensive way the Venezuelan migration and refugee crisis. Thank you so much. [01:03:47][435.8]

David Smolansky: [01:03:52] Thank you, Jose Ignacio. So with that presentation, we are going to start the discussion. We have approximately twenty six minutes. So if you want to make questions please share with us on the chat. I know that some of you has already done some questions, and I would like first before going to questions from the audience. I'll start this question with some comments and also questions after listening to all of you the work, great presentations on how you presented different sensitive and relevant topics for Venezuelan migrants and refugees. We have been talking here about the importance of their documentation and being realized the lack of funds, the pendular migration that Lala explained, the challenges that the region has with a discrimination and xenophobia that unfortunately we have seen more and more xenophobia against some Venezuelans. And so Ana Maria, I was looking at your slides on the welfare that have been improved for migrants, specifically where they have gotten PEP in Colombia and something similar also happened in Peru with the PDP. So in what sense do you think the PEP for Venezuelans in Colombia would impact the economy of Colombia and also how the US, for example, could be benefited for Venezuelans taking the TPS? Because one of the things that we always think when TPS or PEP in Colombia are announced, that only the Venezuelans are the ones who are getting the benefit. They're the ones who are getting the documentation. There are regular, but also there could be this could be a great benefit for the receiving countries in the long term. So that would be great if you can speak a little bit about it after what you showed on the PEP. [01:06:24][151.8]

Ana Maria Ibanez: [01:06:28] Thank you, David. Yes, when we were doing this study, we never imagined that Colombia was going to do this. And what our study shows right now is that definitely the PEP really created benefits for the Venezuelan migrants, however, and I did not discuss that because I didn't have enough time. We also find a lot of obstacles for that benefit to be completely full. There are a lot of obstacles and red tape procedures that do not allow the migrants to get really into formal labor markets or create firms. And so if Colombia wants to reap the long term benefits, it really needs to go into the nitty gritty details that are also important as well. I mean, the decree's, it's good, it's important. But the details, the devil sometimes is in the details and that is important. That's the first thing that I wanted to say. The second thing that's important from this data is that PEP is only for two years. So migrants really have to renew it each two years. And in economic terms, that's not good. You don't have enough certainty. You're not going to invest as much as you would have if you have a longer temporal timeline. So by providing them 10 years and telling them, look, this is a first step so you can become citizens or you can have a permanent visa, it gives them a timeline to really make decisions in the long term. Having said that, of course, this is going to ignite a lot of work from the government of Colombia and a lot of investments. So what I believe it's important is, as I said in the presentation, that now the government knows where the migrants are located and that is important not only for the purposes of the migrant and investment on the migrants, but invest on the local populations that are receiving those migrants and may be experiencing short term costs in order for them to really have the long term benefits of younger people, more educated people going into the labor force and willing to invest in the country and to be part of the Colombian society. So this is a first step is my last message. You really need to get that with a lot of other things that need to be done for the local population and to really improve the implementation of these programs. [01:08:58][149.8]

David Smolansky: [01:08:59] Thanks, Ana Maria. Before going to two questions and comments from the audience, Dany, you were saying that it's a huge step in the documentation for Venezuelan migrants and refugees, but of course, there's more to be done and specifically the integration of labor market. So what's your advice, a bit of advice to a president in the region on saying, "OK, you are implementing the PEP or sorry the TPS in Colombia or now the CPP in Peru or actually the declaration that has been passed in Brazil." After that, how you could do better to integrate Venezuelan migrants and refugees on the labor markets. And also would like to ask you and I know you and I have spoken of this many times, but it is important to raise awareness, why the Syrian refugee crisis has been able to raise more funds or even other crises, such as the South Sudanese refugee crisis, that does not have the same number of refugees as Venezuela, but even though they have been able to raise more funds than the Venezuelan refugee crisis? And this is very important because there is an international solidarity conference to address the Venezuelan migration refugee crisis on June 17th, which Canada is leading this important effort. It is the third conference. And now with COVID-19 we are expecting to have more pledges from the country, but we will see what would happen. Thanks. [01:10:29][89.4]

Dany Bahar: [01:10:36] Good questions. It's hard, I'm going to try to answer very quickly just because of time, but, you know, I remain with the point I was trying to make maybe fast at the end that I think that despite you know on top of all the regularization efforts and providing with the legal paperwork for people to work and to create firms and all the things that that are not perfect. But we have to continue to push. It's crucially important to invest and to find the funding and the world to give the funding to these countries, to invest in local infrastructure, to invest in credits for small and medium firms, to be able to expand and hire these workers. And Colombia, again, we're talking about Colombia. I talk about Colombia a lot because is the country that I got more data from and Colombia had a great program of expansion of giving $200,000,000 of credit lines to firms in the regions where most Venezuelans have arrived. And I think that this a great example. First of all, it's Economics 101, right? If you have a huge inflow of people, you also want to compensate that with a huge inflow of capital so that at the end there's no negative effect whatsoever on the country. There's positive effects, which would you only get if you bring complementary resources such as capital. So that would be, I think, the basic thing. The other thing I want to say, because we're at the Harvard Growth Lab, and the best place to say this is that, you know, this is a blessing. I mean, despite all the terrible things that are happening to Venezuela, this Venezuelan refugee crisis is going to be the key to the reconstruction of Venezuela. Because the more these people integrate, the best they perform, the more technologies and knowledge and experience and management they get from many different industries around the continent, the more they excel, the more they're going to bring back that knowledge and that technology back to Venezuela after when it's time to reconstruct the country. And that's going to be the key to the diversification of the country, to a strong economy that grows for everybody. Last on your question on why is it that, you know, Venezuelans are not getting as much funding? You know, I'm not a political scientist, but I'm... Sorry about this, but the point I want to make is that, you know, that there's one big difference, that on one end of the spectrum of the receiving countries in the Syrian crisis, you have rich countries. In Latin America and, you know, in the case of the Venezuelan refugee crisis, you don't have rich countries on the receiving end. You have countries that are middle income or poor to middle income and so on. So they don't have the resources. And there's no pressure from, let's say, what happens in Syria. I think a lot of European countries are giving a lot of money to Turkey and Jordan and Lebanon so that they will keep and I forget the right word, but that they will keep the refugee crisis within those limits. Now, yesterday or this week was announced also a huge. this is sensitive, but a huge package of, I think, $4,000,000,000 from USAID to deal with the Northern Triangle refugee crisis. Well, that's maybe another example that those numbers are much, much, much higher than what you've seen in the region. So that's kind of the geopolitics of it. [01:14:18][222.4]

Betilde Munoz: [01:14:19] If I may add very quickly on the excellent points that Dany just made, David, on why, you know, the issue of lack of funding. It is aligned to the last point he was making. There's also this conception that this is a sub-regional crisis, the Venezuelan migrant and refugee crisis is something that pertains to the South American countries. So sort of a misconception that it's sub-regional. And if push comes to shove, well, it's a regional crisis where... that the Western Hemisphere has to take care of it together. And if there's a leader to be looked at it's the US, the one to be providing the support. And I think this is a conversation that we need to keep having and we need to push this message that is not subregional, that is not regional, this is a global crisis, especially as you are saying, David, if we compare the numbers with the Syrian crisis. So, you know, the point of this, the perception, the geopolitical understanding of the crisis is something that I, in my view, at least helps explain the lack of funding. [01:15:28][69.1]

David Smolansky: [01:15:30] Thanks, Betilde. I think that's crucial what you said, because it's a huge mistake and I have been saying that in my role that I have at the OAS to see this crisis that's regional or sub-regional. The fourth and fifth largest Venezuelan communities are not specifically in South America, it's the US and Spain. And having said that, it has been difficult to put these crisis more on the global context. So hopefully this conference that will be held in June, will help to try to address these in a more global way.