integration of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees in Ecuador: Ongoing support to provide information on protection services, job opportunities and access to decent living conditions to Venezuelan refugees and migrants
In partnership with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), AVSI Foundation, with sub-grantees Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI), implements the project “INTEGRADOS: Integration of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees in Ecuador: Ongoing support to provide information on protection services, job opportunities and access to decent living conditions to Venezuelan refugees and migrants.” The project will run for two years, starting in September 2020, in the Ecuadorian states of Pichincha, Manabi, and El Oro.
To improve the well-being and integration of the most vulnerable persons in Ecuador, including Venezuelan migrants and refugees, for the benefit of all.
Since 2015, the ongoing political and economic crisis in Venezuela has forced over 5 million people to flee to other countries in search of a better life. There are hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants living in Ecuador. Many of these migrants lack regular legal status and the protections that come with it.
Moreover, it is difficult for them to integrate into their new communities and to access the local human rights protection networks in their areas. It is also hard for them to find safe and equitable housing. Large groups of Venezuelans live crowded in small apartments. Many of them live in condemned buildings, some of which were damaged in the 2016 earthquake. The Venezuelans are also vulnerable to abuse by landlords because they do not have formal rental agreements.
These hardships are magnified by difficulties finding employment or other income-generating activities. Many migrants can’t access the formal labor market in Ecuador because they lack the necessary professional credentials. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, migrants often worked in informal jobs such as selling food or crafts on the street. The economic consequences of COVID-19 and related shutdown measures have made it even more difficult for Venezuelan migrants in Ecuador to make a living.
To respond to these significant challenges, AVSI Ecuador is partnering with COOPI to implement a project working on three main axes: shelter, protection and livelihoods.
The project’s main goal is to provide shelter to Venezuelan migrants. AVSI identifies and / or renovates safe spaces for permanent housing in each of the three locations. As an initial step, project staff will work with temporary shelters to improve systems for transitioning migrants out of short-term shelters and into long-term solutions. To increase access to long-term shelter options, AVSI has a two-pronged approach. 1) Identify appropriate, secure spaces and negotiate with the owners/landlords, and 2) Improve multifamily housing units that are currently being rented to Venezuelans but are not in adequate condition. Project staff will also deliver non-food housing kits to each beneficiary family, with items corresponding to their specific needs.
Project staff will also work to strengthen existing inter-institutional human rights protection networks by creating and distributing informational materials on access to rights and services and the migration regularization processes. Another critical protection action is a conditional cash transfer. A monthly cash-transfer will be provided to each family participating in the program for the first three months to enable them to benefit fully from the program while ensuring that their basic needs are being met. This short-term support allows beneficiaries to take a step forward and begin to build a more solid foundation for a life of dignity in their new community.
Finally, COOPI leads the livelihood response. The main activities include mapping the most vital productive sectors in the local economy, establishing alliances with private companies and local business associations to integrate Venezuelan migrants, creating a database of beneficiaries’ skills and professional training and offering them new technical training opportunities, and offering an integrated path to develop business ideas and plans through seed funding grants and accompaniment throughout the business development process.
In its first year, the project aims to benefit 2,560 people directly: 73% will be migrants, and 27% from the host community. At least 50% of the beneficiaries of the entrepreneurship component will be women. There will be about 24,000 indirect beneficiaries, including future residents of temporary shelters, local businesses engaged in rehabilitation, and neighbors benefiting from the services provided through the entrepreneurial activity.