A virtual International Donors Conference in solidarity with Venezuelan refugees and migrants raised €3.1 billion Tuesday (26 May) from more than 60 countries and institutions to assist the displaced population of the South American country.
“We have to be proud of what we achieved,” said Arancha González Laya, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs. Some €2.5 billion was pledged through the digital fundraising and €595 million in donations.
This funding will make it possible in the short term to meet the EU’s objective of relieving the humanitarian emergency in Venezuela and neighbouring countries like Peru, Columbia, Equator, Argentina and Brazil, which have hosted its refugees.
“When we decided to go ahead with this conference, and despite all the situations with COVID-19, we knew that we were taking a risk. But thanks to your commitment and understanding of the circumstances, the call to solidarity was answered with enthusiasm. We are grateful for the gesture. We have to be proud of what we achieve,” said González Laya.
Each country or institution who contributed was free to channel its money to a specific area. For example, Spain, which will contribute €50 million over the next three years, has said that the first tranche will be used for the benefit of refugees, so that they have support in areas such as health, education, food security and integration.
The recipient countries have been made responsible for the implementation.
In her final remarks at the conference, González sent an emotional message to the citizens of Venezuela.
“To the men and women. To the youth and children. To the migrants, refugees or those who are still in Venezuela, living in precarious conditions. You are not alone. The international community has not forgotten you. We support you and we will continue to work to find solutions and to support a return to democracy in Venezuela,” she said.
European Union’s contribution
The EU’s top diplomat, Spaniard Josep Borell, put the value of the bloc’s contribution at €144 million and added that the European Investment Bank will contribute €400 million in loans.
During the conference, Borrell stressed the importance of cooperation mechanisms and asked that they remain a fundamental part of the response to a problem that has accompanied us in recent years.
“We must continue to show generosity and support,” he said.
At the same conference, António Vitorino, director-general of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), stressed that Venezuelan migrants and refugees have been strongly affected by the pandemic and praised the role of several Latin American governments in supporting those who fled Venezuela.
More than five million people have left Venezuela
The conference was organised by the European Union and the Spanish government, with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the IOM, Norway and Canada.
The initiative follows a commitment accepted by the EU at the Solidarity Conference held in Brussels in October 2019 to hold a donors’ conference as soon as possible.
Its aim was to raise awareness for the Venezuelan crisis within the international community, mobilize resources to assist the displaced population, address the situation created by COVID-19 and enable a greater and better-coordinated engagement of key actors.
The European External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic arm, estimates that 5.1 million people have left Venezuela during the last five years due to the political instability, insecurity and economic collapse. Around 80% of them have moved to countries in the region.
One of the major refugee crises in Latin American history has also turned into one of the biggest displacement crises in the world. The EU’s diplomatic service pointed out that this is the “second most serious external displacement crisis in the world, second only to the crisis in Syria”.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]