Six million Venezuelan migrants have left the country during the recent socio-economic instability – the largest diaspora in Latin America’s history – with 17 countries hosting 80% of the migrants. Colombia has welcomed most of the migrants and last year granted Venezuelans a ten-year temporary status to regularise their presence. Now Ecuador, the third largest recipient of Venezuelan migrants, has begun a process to grant them a legal right to stay in Ecuador.
“According to unofficial numbers, there are half a million, mostly undocumented, Venezuelans currently residing in Ecuador,” explained Diego Andrés Almeida Cevallos, Managing Partner at Almeida Guzmán & Asociados “Ecuador is a transit country for migrants travelling to the US and Canada,” he continued, “in the case of Venezuelans, many decide to stay given the dollarisation of the economy, and the ability to remit money to their relatives in Venezuela.”
“Ecuador is a transit country for migrants travelling to the US and Canada, in the case of Venezuelans, many decide to stay given the dollarisation of the economy, and the ability to remit money to their relatives in Venezuela.”
Diego Andrés Almeida Cevallos, Managing Partner at Almeida Guzmán & Asociados
In February 2021, Iván Duque, then president of Colombia granted Venezuelans in the country a ten-year temporary protection status which regularised their access to essential services, protection and assistance. In a similar move, Ecuador, which is host to the third-largest Venezuelan community began a similar regularisation at the start of the month. The process will take a year and it will provide Venezuelans who successfully complete the process with the legal right to stay in Ecuador.
By February 2023, Quito expects that 324,000 Venezuelans of the estimated 500,000 migrant community to regularise their status. While social activist groups have supported the measure in what they consider to be a second opportunity for Venezuelans who will have the chance to fully participate in Ecuador’s economy, there have been voices of concern over a potential rise in criminality. Mr Almeida Cevallos affirmed, “Due to the unstable and precarious conditions of the migrants, there is a certain level of discomfort of Ecuadorians living in the neighbourhoods where the migrants reside. There is a sense in Ecuador that the recently arrived migrants are less skilled than the previous waves, that included professionals and skilled workers.”
Echoing both opinions, the government said that it will not regularise immigrants with criminal records but emphasised that their regularisation will integrate them in the country’s economic activities. A partner at Ecuador’s largest law firm said, “The difficulty in obtaining all the documents required under the various Ecuadorian regulations and norms have resulted in a high percentage of Venezuelan migrants working in informal sectors or in areas unrelated to their academic training, and that the possibilities of acquiring or renting housing are still scarce.”
“The difficulty in obtaining all the documents required under the various Ecuadorian regulations and norms have resulted in a high percentage of Venezuelan migrants working in informal sectors.”
Partner, Ecuador’s largest law firm
The government of Ecuador has been collaborating with the World Bank on how to integrate Venezuelans in the national economy. With a standard age ranging between 19 and 35 and higher education levels than the local population, Ecuador could see a 1.9 GDP growth if these migrants were integrated in the labour market according to their professional skills. As Venezuelans continue to flee their country, the president of Chile Gabriel Boric has suggested to implement a quota system inspired in the failed EU refugee quotas. Boric called on Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia to take action showing solidarity towards its regional neighbours.