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This letter was sent to representatives of the following countries:
Costa Rica
Dominican Republic
United States

Washington, D.C., September 4, 2018

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ottawa – CANADA
Dear Minister Freeland,

I am writing to share with you a report we released this week that includes concrete recommendations on how the region should respond to the massive exodus of Venezuelans fleeing the devastating economic, human rights, and humanitarian crisis affecting their country. We hope you will take this information into account when presenting your government’s positions during the debate on this subject taking place at the OAS Permanent Council on September 5.

The report, titled “The Venezuelan Exodus: The Need for a Regional Response to an Unprecedented Migration Crisis,” documents efforts by South American governments to address the massive numbers of Venezuelans crossing their borders, as well as recent setbacks that threaten Venezuelans’ ability to seek protection. In some Caribbean islands, Venezuelans are subject to arbitrary arrests and deportations. Xenophobic incidents are a growing concern.[1]

While many governments have made exceptional efforts to welcome fleeing Venezuelans, governments in the Americas should develop a collective and uniform response to Venezuelan emigration. Human Rights Watch recommends that governments in the Americas consider adopting:

  • A region-wide temporary protection regime that would grant all Venezuelans legal status, including work authorization and suspension of deportation, for a fixed but renewable period, at least pending adjudication of their individual claims for protection;
  • A regional mechanism to equitably share responsibilities and costs associated with the migration flows, including safe, orderly, and voluntary transfers of refugees and asylum seekers among host countries according to their capacity to receive, process, and integrate them; and
  • Strong multilateral strategies to address the root causes that lead so many Venezuelans to flee their country, including adopting and enforcing targeted sanctions such as asset freezes and cancelling visas against key Venezuelan officials implicated in serious human rights abuses, and pushing for justice for human rights violations.

Over 2.3 million Venezuelans out of an estimated 32 million total population have left their country since 2014, according to the UN. However, many more whose cases will not have been registered by authorities have left.

The political, economic, human rights, and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela creates a mix of factors that causes Venezuelans to leave and makes them unable or unwilling to return. Some fleeing will qualify for refugee status; others may not qualify but need protection.

This week’s meeting offers a unique opportunity for governments in the region to stand up to the task of adopting a regional response to this unprecedented migration crisis that is consistent with human rights. We look forward to working with you to make that happen.

Best regards,
José Miguel Vivanco
Executive Director, Americas Division

[1] Human Rights Watch, “The Venezuelan Exodus: The Need for a Regional Response to an Unprecedented Migration Crisis,” September 3, 2018,

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