HIAS in Venezuela

Founded: 2007
Country Director: Marcel Navas
Office Locations: Caracas, Guasdualito, Machiques, Maracaibo, Puerto Ayacucho, San Antonio and San Cristobal


UNHCR estimates that some 170,000 Colombians live in Venezuela. Many have been in the country for two decades and have been able to largely integrate into Venezuelan society. However, only about 7,500 people in need of international protection have been formally recognized by Venezuela’s National Commission for Refugees (CNR) as refugees. 
Though the peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has been forged, new waves of Colombian refugees continue to cross the border in search of peace, and will stay until voluntary and dignified return is possible. 


Since the program began in 2007, HIAS has served approximately 35,000 Colombian refugees, including those with significant legal and protection needs, single-headed households, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and those with chronic illnesses and disabilities. HIAS serves beneficiaries through mental health and psychosocial services, legal protection and livelihoods support with an emphasis on food security. In addition, HIAS serves more than 1,000 Venezuelans through cultivating psychosocial support networks, legal protection networks and promoting livelihoods activities based on a community-oriented approach. By serving vulnerable Venezuelans together with the refugees living in their neighborhoods, HIAS seeks to improve relations between these groups and support mutually beneficial community development initiatives.


Building on previous years, the guiding principle of HIAS’ work is to develop the capacities of beneficiary and host communities, encouraging self-sufficiency and empowerment and tapping into existing resources in host and refugee communities. 
Psychosocial Services
The majority of refugees arrive in Venezuela with a history of exposure to threats of and direct violence and forced recruitment into gangs or militias. HIAS has adopted a multi-layered model to improve the mental health and psychosocial well-being of refugees. 
For example, HIAS collaborates with vulnerable refugees (particularly SGBV survivors) to design and carry out cultural and recreational activities and create safe, welcoming spaces that engage existing support systems  in their communities. 
Legal Services
Only about 5% of refugees in Venezuela are formally recognized as refugees with CNR or UNHCR. Working with UNHCR, CNR and other partners, HIAS empowers asylum seekers to secure protection and long-term legal status, including access to necessary legal information to understand their rights and access services.
Livelihood Services
HIAS serves at-risk refugees by providing vocational training and opportunities to pursue life-sustaining livelihoods projects including around urban agriculture, home and community gardens. Additionally, HIAS provides assistance payments for certain vulnerable families which will provide urgent basic needs including food, medical and maternity care, shelter and costs related to obtaining legal documentation.
HIAS’s services are free. If someone tries to charge you for services claiming they represent HIAS, please report it at our confidential email address: ethics@hias.org. HIAS has a zero-tolerance policy on fraud and corruption.