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New Report Shows Venezuelan Women and Children Seeking Safety in Peru and Ecuador at Heightened Risk of Exploitation

New York, NY – A new report released today by the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), The Time to Act Is Now: Addressing Risks of Exploitation for Venezuelan Women and Children Seeking Refuge, shows that Venezuelan women and children fleeing to Peru and Ecuador face a heightened risk of exploitation, including sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV). In addition to harassment and violence, WRC found that women are having to resort to survival sex in order to provide for themselves and their families.

Ecuador and Peru are two of the countries hosting the largest number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees since the crisis began in 2015. Earlier this year, WRC researchers traveled to both countries after noticing that each nation experienced a significant spike in new arrivals in 2018.

“For 30 years, WRC has sought to assess the impact of emerging crises on displaced women and girls and to identify gaps in services,” said Joan Timoney, WRC Senior Director of Advocacy and External Relations. “With an increasing number of Venezuelans fleeing their country, it was critical for us to speak first-hand with affected women and girls so we could document their needs and advocate for the urgent support they require.”

More than three million people have fled Venezuela since 2015 due to widespread insecurity, the collapse of the economy, lack of food and medicines, and fears of violence, discrimination, and persecution. From 2017 to 2018, there was a fourfold increase in Venezuelan arrivals in Peru and a nearly 300 percent increase in Ecuador.

The report found that difficulties in accessing documentation, inadequate staffing and programs to address gender-based violence, and insufficient resources for child protection programming are all contributing factors to the exploitation now facing women and children.

“The governments of Ecuador and Peru have shown impressive solidarity towards those fleeing the Venezuelan crisis by keeping their borders open and offering them refuge. It is vital that these governments ensure that Venezuelan women and girls in their territory – who are at such high risk of abuse and exploitation – have access to legal status to reduce these risks,” said Melanie Teff, WRC consultant. “The UN should support the Peruvian and Ecuadorean governments by reinforcing their systems on counter-trafficking and on GBV protection and response.”

The report also found growing xenophobia against Venezuelans and that neither Ecuador nor Peru has yet established protocols to address the protection of marginalized populations, such as the LGBTI community.

Click here to access the full report of findings and recommendations.