Estimates suggest that there will be around 1.6 million Venezuelan immigrants living in Peru by the end of 2023. Moreover, UNHCR estimates that more than 7 million Venezuelans have left their country to seek protection in other countries. Venezuelan migration, primarily to its neighboring countries in the region, is mainly due to the international humanitarian crisis recognized by institutions such as the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNRA) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This crisis consists of issues such as political instability, weakening economies, COVID-19, natural disasters and strict U.S.-led sanctions.
Dealing with this international crisis requires an understanding of the rise in immigration, the immigrants’ situations, the public’s perception of Venezuelan immigrants and the positive impact they have on Peru’s economy.
The Rise in Venezuelan Immigration
Venezuelan migration to Peru started to take off in 2017, with the Peruvian government taking action and granting Venezuelan refugees a temporary stay permit (PTP) for two years, with authorization to work included.
The number of Venezuelan migrants went from 8,000 in 2016 to 110,000 by the end of 2017. In 2018, that number increased to more than 530,000 migrants. As of 2023, there are more than 1.5 million Venezuelans settled in Peru, with no less than 530,000 of them asking for refugee status.
The Situation for Venezuelan Immigrants
According to a World Bank report, the average Venezuelan immigrant is between 18 and 29 years old, comes from primarily urban areas and is highly educated. Around 57% have completed secondary school, and half of that 57% have a university degree.
In fact, more Venezuelans have been living in Peru irregularly since 2018. This is because of the government’s withdrawal of their 2017 PTP and the introduction of the humanitarian visa in 2018, and once again, the return to the PTP in October 2020. The last two procedures were more specific than before, asking for internationally valid identification (passports) as well as imposing high fees for people who overstayed their original permits.
Due to their irregular migration status, Venezuelan immigrants are prone to working in the informal sector. In an assessment by the International Rescue Committee, 45% of 900 Venezuelan families in Peru declared to be working informally. This percentage increases when focusing explicitly on Venezuelan immigrants receiving financial aid.
Public Perception of Venezuelan Immigrants
Public perception of Venezuelan immigrants in Peru has been in steady decline for the last few years. In a 2019 survey by the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP), 73% of respondents disapproved of Venezuelan migration. However, 83% of the respondents admitted to not having any contact with Venezuelan immigrants.
Much of this discontent from Peruvians, especially those residing in Lima, Peru’s capital, stems from the belief that Venezuelan immigrants are the root of crime, despite this being unproven. A 2020 study by Equilibrium-CenDE shows that Venezuelan migration has had no impact on either crime rates or citizen security indices in Lima, Peru.
One true effect of Venezuelan migration is the displacement of female Peruvian workers in favor of Venezuelan workers, especially young women with low education levels. Other than that, the overall impact of Venezuelan migration on Peruvian workers is not significant, as a study shows that wages in Lima, Piura and Arequipa have not decreased due to the influx of Venezuelan workers.
Organizations Aiding Venezuelan immigrants
Fortunately, there are plenty of organizations aiding Venezuelan immigrants. For instance, the international NGO Save The Children has reached more than 37,000 Venezuelan citizens living in Peru, including 16,152 children, between 2019 and 2020.
In addition, the World Bank donated $3.5 million to the “COVID-19 Emergency Response for Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees in Peru.” This project is taking place in four regions of the country, and will mainly distribute financial aid to the Venezuelan population located in those regions.
– Luciana Mena