Shelter and Aid for Venezuelan Refugees in Peru

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CARACAS, Venezuela — Several years of frequent changes of power due to corruption and illegitimate voting processes caused Venezuela to become a country rife with poverty, illness and unrest. It has become increasingly harder to obtain vaccines and medical care, and the country is experiencing power outages. Conflict regarding the legitimacy of two men, each claiming to be the governing president, has only furthered the instability of Venezuela’s economy. This turmoil led hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to flee the country to escape the lack of jobs in the hopes of employment and health care in another country.

Peru Welcomes Refugees from Venezuela

While Colombia welcomed approximately 1.3 million shelter-seeking refugees, Peru is just behind in the number of immigrants crossing borders. An estimated 768,000 Venezuelans have crossed the Peruvian border as of mid-2019. The previous open-door policy, established in 2017, enticed many Venezuelans to travel to the country.

The Permiso Temporal de Permanencia (PTP) is a temporary residency permit that provides its holders with healthcare and education benefits. Additionally, Peru is one of the most prosperous and beautiful countries in South America. Its uniquely welcoming attitude towards immigrants has turned the country into an even more promising potential new home. However, accepting increasing numbers of Venezuelan refugees has placed a strain on the Peruvian government. In June 2019, the government imposed a new rule mandating that all migrants present passports and valid visas in order to enter the country — “closing a door to many Venezuelans who cannot afford the fees needed to acquire them,” according to a Reuters report.

Healthcare and Shelter for Venezuelan Refugees

The country offers a number of benefits for those who have sought refuge within its borders. Those who have formally established residency in Peru become eligible for the public health system. This allows immigrants to receive medical care and treatments that they would have never been able to afford previously. Additionally, expectant mothers and children younger than 5 years old are automatically eligible for governmental healthcare regardless of their status.

Aside from government efforts, the U.N. Refugee Agency established many shelters for newly arrived Venezuelan refugees in Peru. The shelters offer food and shelter for a brief time while refugees look for residency and work. They can house between 30 and 90 people at a time. Hostels in more impoverished areas of Peru have popped up as well. These residences allow a longer maximum stay and employ line cooks to serve meals to the residents. Both of these types of shelters allow families to feel safe upon their initial entry into the country and allow families to remain together.

Employment Opportunities for Venezuelan Refugees in Peru

Despite Peru’s legacy of making the integration process as easy as possible for displaced people, the issue of employment is certainly complex. The Peruvian government administers work permits to many so that they might achieve a steady income. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, the vast majority of Venezuelan immigrants in Peru rely on serving as vendors in public markets as their primary source of income.

The Venezuelan refugees in Peru may help with this initiative. Among the thousands who have entered Peru in recent years, many are formally educated doctors, lawyers, teachers and business people who can offer much-needed services to Peru’s growing market of formal workers.

Despite the need to adjust to the influx of people needing homes and jobs, Peru became a world leader in the treatment of refugees. Its government is abidingly willing to do what it can for these people in need. The initial willingness to welcome people fleeing economic and social distress in Venezuela by Peru is the most crucial first step. Now, many organizations working alongside governmental agencies offering aid will work to find permanent employment and residency for these people.

Gina Beviglia
Photo: Flickr

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