News Alert: Venezuelan Refugees Must Not Be Denied COVID-19 Vaccine

December 23, 2020

Following the announcement by Colombia’s President Iván Duque stating that Venezuelans without formal migratory status will not get access to COVID-19 vaccines, Mercy Corps Country Director for Colombia, Hugh Aprile, says:

“We are very concerned about the decision to exclude a significant number of Venezuelans in vaccination efforts. Vaccines will only curb the pandemic if everyone can get them. Leaving Venezuelans out puts them and their Colombian neighbors at risk.

“Venezuelans, especially those who are undocumented, are among the most vulnerable and hardest hit by the economic effects of the pandemic. Many have lost their only source of income and been forced to live in crowded shelters or on the streets, making them even more susceptible to catching and spreading the virus. People who are most at-risk and vulnerable should be prioritized regardless of nationality or immigration status.  

“We worry that uneven distribution of vaccines could spark new grievances that have the potential to deepen divisions and fuel conflict between Venezuelans and Colombians. The prolonged lockdown has been extremely tough for refugee-hosting communities where resources are already strained and tensions are high. This decision has the potential to make an already fragile situation worse.

“The cost and effort of vaccinating nearly 1.7 million refugees should not fall solely on the Colombian government. As the region’s largest migration crisis in recent history, rivaling the scale of Syria’s crisis, the international community has a key role to play.”

In Colombia, Mercy Corps is working alongside other leading aid organizations to provide emergency cash to Venezuelan migrants and refugees as well as vulnerable Colombians living in communities affected by the strain of Venezuelan migration. Collectively, we’ve reached more than 148,000 people, helping them pay for basic essentials like food, water, hygiene items and shelter. More than one-quarter of those people were targeted because they’d been identified as being at-risk for eviction due to the impact of the pandemic.

Mercy Corps has been working in Colombia since 2005 and last year reached over 207,000 people.