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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

On the other side: walk a mile in the shoes of a young Venezuelan migrant

Since 2015, more than 6 million Venezuelans have left their homes to survive the country’s deep socio-economic crisis.

It is the largest forced displacement in the history of modern Latin America and one of the biggest migration crises in the world, though one of the least reported and funded.

Arianna is one of them. Through a 360-degree interactive movie funded by EU humanitarian aid, you can walk a mile with her as she crosses Colombia to Ecuador to find her sister.

On the other side: walk a mile in the shoes of a young Venezuelan migrant 1
© UNHCR/Imán Transmedia.

This massive displacement has impacted the Latin America and Caribbean region. From Colombia to Chile, via the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago.

Millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants live in extremely vulnerable conditions among host communities, which often are already struggling and lacking resources.  

The 360-degree interactive movie “On the other side”, funded by the EU and produced by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is the story of one of them, the 18-year-old Arianna.

She leaves Venezuela and crosses Colombia heading to Ecuador, where she hopes to find her sister. Arianna is a fictional character, but everything the movie shows results from the testimonies of dozens of refugees and UNHCR personnel. The risks, the difficulties, the anxieties and the solidarity she lives are real.

On the other side aims to give the opportunity to walk a mile in the shoes of a young Venezuelan migrant and face the difficult choices she has to make.

The ordeal of fleeing Venezuela

Most displaced Venezuelans left on foot, carrying few belongings, and walking for weeks, or months, hoping to reach a better future.

“We left Venezuela a month ago. We have been walking most of the time, with our 2 children,” recalls Hernan* while his sons – who are 5 and 6 years old – hug their mother.

“We have not eaten properly since we left, we mostly survived on bread and water. We adults have not eaten for days, so that the children could eat.”

They hail from a town on Venezuela’s northern coast and walked almost 2,500 kilometres to reach Ecuador. It is more than twice the distance from Brussels to Vienna.

The journey is only part of the difficulties that Venezuelans experience. When they reach a new place, settling is equally complicated. Finding a stable job is extremely challenging, and they are often exploited, live in precarious situations and suffer xenophobia and discrimination.

On the other side: walk a mile in the shoes of a young Venezuelan migrant 2
© European Union, 2020 (photographer: Santiago Arcos Veintimilla)

The situation in Venezuela does not seem to improve. The country is entering the eighth consecutive year of a dire economic and political crisis.

People lack public services, especially in the healthcare area: 80% of hospitals do not have essential medicines, equipment, water or stable electricity supply.

A growing number of people cannot access treatments for chronic diseases and emergency medical care, while food scarcity and little access to water have become the new normal.

“Millions of people suffer desperate situations in one of the largest ongoing displacement crises worldwide. It requires a consequent and proportionate commitment in terms of humanitarian assistance and support to the host countries to facilitate the integration of Venezuelan displaced people in their societies,” explains Alvaro De Vicente, Head of the EU humanitarian aid regional office in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“We continue to focus on the critical needs of the most vulnerable among both the displaced population and host communities,” he explains.

Since 2016, the EU has allocated €230 million to fund humanitarian interventions for Venezuelan migrants and refugees through a wide network of humanitarian partners across Latin America.

The UNHCR is among the recipients of such funding, implementing EU-funded interventions in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and in the Netherlands’ Antilles to support more than 300,000 Venezuelans.

In Ecuador, thanks to EU funding, the UNHCR supports a network of shelters where refugees and migrants can stay up to 2 weeks.

In this time window, they receive legal advice to regularise their position, information on the economic opportunities in the cities they want to reach, psychological support, meals, and basic healthcare. Shelters are also equipped with child-friendly spaces where kids can socialise and play.

Story by Daniele Pagani, Regional Information Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.

Publication date: 15/06/2022