Remarks by Giampaolo Silvestri at the International solidarity conference on the Venezuelan refugee and migrant crisis (Brussels, 28-29 October 19)

Date 29.10.2019

It is estimated that, so far, approximately 4.5 million Venezuelans have fled as a result of the political turmoil, socio-economic instability and humanitarian crisis in their country. The international community is actively involved in supporting the host countries bearing the burden of the refugee and migrant crisis and since 2018 AVSI works in Brazil both in refugee camps and in integration actions.

The European Union, together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration, co-hosted the International solidarity conference on the Venezuelan refugee and migrant crisis on 28-29 October in Brussels to mobilise support in addressing the refugee and migrant crisis, and to demonstrate solidarity of the international community to the affected host countries.

Giampaolo Silvestri, AVSI Secretary General share the experience of AVSI with Venezuelans in Brazil during the intervention from the floor, here his remarks:

Our action

  • We are managing some reception centers and we are giving assistance to refugees in Boa Vista – (Roraima State) since 2018, at the aim to contribute to ensure access to basic services. AVSI now is responsible for the management of 6 camps, hosting around 5,000 refugees, within the Federal Government Programme, in partnership with UNHCR and with Funds of Italy.
  • We have ongoing activities in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), to ensure access to formal employment for Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Brazil and for the most vulnerable Brazilian population;
  • We work with Bernard Van Leer Foundation to promote continuity for the public policy "Familia Que Acolhe" launched in the municipality of Boa Vista;
  • We cooperate with AVSI funds for the integration of Venezuelans in the Brazilian cities where they settle down, through the reception and assistance of fifty families;
  • Two minor projects, funded by UNICEF, have just been launched to promote education in emergency.

Our approach: multi-stakeholder partnerships

What I want to underline are some partnerships with the private sector, in particular with:

  • Industrias San Miguel – Peruvian company operating in Brazil in the sector of soft drinks, in which we have employed 15 Venezuelan refugees with the possibility of further employment of 10 refugees.
  • SODEXO – French multinational in the sector of business services with which we have an agreement for the employment of 60 Venezuelan refugees with possibility of further extension.

This is for us the only way: the multi-stakeholder approach for a migration flow that has reached unprecedented proportions and that will remain an emergency for the coming years.

What does it mean multi-stakeholder approach and what are its advantages?

The issue of migration is complex, it demands:

  • priority is given to the care of the person, both the migrant and the host community
  • interventions are realized paying attention to the present day, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow with a long prospective and with a focus on the sustainability of the projects;
  • partnerships with different kind of actors.

NGOs are necessary mediators and facilitators: when they have been working with local communities for a long time, they get to know the true needs of both the people that arrive and the host communities.

The intervention of public donors is essential to respond to immediate needs: if people is hungry, we must give the hungry to eat now.

Private companies: they support the labor training, but also the job creation. This supports the commitment of public donors during crises, because it makes available new resources. But the nature of the enterprise should always be respected: the inclusive business.

The employment is not only a response to hunger, but also the necessary condition to ensure the dignity of the person.

Conclusion: the multi-stakeholder approach must promote the person, help him/her to overcome and exit the condition of “refugee-migrant” to be a full-fledged citizen of the world’s community. The alternative is not human.