Against the backdrop of increased subsequent movements of refugees and migrants in the region, the crossing of several countries in situations of vulnerability and through unofficial border points, particularly the second half of 2021, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela moving north, through the Darien Gap, many attempting to reach the United States (US) through its southern land border with Mexico. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported an increase of more than 10,000% in the number of “encounters” with Venezuelans attempting to enter the United States from Mexico, to 24,819 in December 2021 (vs. 206 in December 2020). In total, there were 106,755 “encounters”1 with Venezuelans attempting to enter the United States from Mexico in 2021. Venezuelans made up just 0.4% of those attempting to enter the United States illegally. United in January 2021, but 15% of all nationalities arriving in the United States by January 2022. Venezuelans have overtaken Hondurans, Haitians, and Salvadorans in arrivals at the U.S. southern border in the past two last months of 2021 and in January 2022.
This increase in attempted entry of refugees and migrants from Venezuela to the United States corresponds both to the increase in the number of Venezuelans arriving by air in Mexico, particularly during the last four months of 2021 (which increased from 13,299 in August to 31,518 in December), and the increase in the number of Venezuelans traveling via irregular land routes through Central America to Mexico. Of particular note is the number of Venezuelans crossing the perilous Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama, which has increased from just 3 in January 2021 to 1,153 in January 2022, according to Panama’s National Migration Service (SNM); despite an agreement between the governments of Panama and Colombia from mid-August to limit the number of refugees and migrants (of all nationalities) who would be allowed to cross daily. Children accounted for 23% of refugees and migrants of all nationalities crossing through the Darien Gap in 2021, according to SNM data. Meanwhile, the number of new asylum applications per month from Venezuelans in Mexico has remained stable (averaging 552 per month throughout 2021; peaking at 615 in July), highlighting Mexico’s trend towards move from a destination country for Venezuelans to a transit country. country for those heading to the United States
It is understood that these movements of Venezuelan refugees and migrants transiting through countries in Central America and Mexico to reach the United States are almost evenly distributed among subsequent movements of Venezuelans who previously resided in other host countries. of the region and the movements of Venezuelans who more recently left their country of origin. For example, a January 2022 survey conducted by an R4V partner of refugees and migrants arriving in Costa Rica from Panama by land found that 52% of Venezuelans transiting through Costa Rica (most of whom indicated the United States as final destination) had previously resided in another host country (mainly Colombia, followed by Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Brazil), while 46% had recently departed from Venezuela. Meanwhile, among Venezuelans surveyed by an R4V partner in May 2021 in four border towns in northern Mexico – 43% of whom expressed an intention to travel to the United States – 47% held a permanent residency card in Mexico, 20% had resided in Colombia before entering Mexico, and 12% had previously resided in Ecuador, Peru or Chile. These Venezuelans said their main need was legal assistance, including establishing legal residency through asylum or other immigration procedures, and 29% had no documented form of legal status in the country ( the other respondents indicated that they either had a humanitarian visa, a temporary residence permit, or that their documentation was in progress).
In another joint analysis carried out by the R4V platform in Mexico in September and October 2021, of Venezuelans residing in five cities (Monterrey, Querétaro, Puebla, Cancún and Playa del Carmen) who had arrived mainly by plane, a significant proportion noted that he had previously lived in Colombia, Peru or Ecuador before traveling to Mexico, and had left these other host countries mainly due to xenophobia, discrimination and precarious economic situations.
On December 17, 2021, noting that Venezuelan nationals were increasingly entering Mexico with the intention of undertaking “irregular transit to a third country”, the Mexican government announced that it would require visas for Venezuelans to enter. in the country as tourists, and the visa requirement came into effect on January 21, 2022. Costa Rica also implemented a visa requirement for Venezuelans from February 21, 2022, and on the same day, Honduras has announced that it will also start requiring visas for Venezuelans. Among other Central American countries, Panama, El Salvador and Guatemala have also imposed visa requirements on Venezuelans.
Due to these new visa requirements, most Venezuelans will no longer be able to enter most Central American countries or Mexico on a regular basis (due to visa application fees or difficulties in obtaining the necessary documents, including the availability of passports and/or civil documents). Yet, still impacted by the needs that forced them to leave their home countries, and often unable to integrate locally, it is expected that many more will resort to irregular overland travel, in order to reach the Mexico and the United States.