Venezuelan aid extended to refugees

The Venezuelan Government has expanded micro-finance assistance to Colombian refugees and asylum-seekers in border areas, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday.

“This plan promotes self-employment in host communities and is a big step in the effort to protect and integrate some 12,000 asylum-seekers who are waiting for status recognition,” Ron Redmond, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

The first stage of the project – providing $250,000 in micro-credits to dozens of projects involving production, trade and services – helped over 100 families, mostly headed by women, refugees and Venezuelans living in areas bordering Colombia.

The Banco del Pueblo Soberano, one of the Government’s largest micro-finance institutions, will double their aid this year to other communities and border states after registering a high level of return and a low bad debt rate of below three percent.

In Venezuela, it can take as long as three years for asylum-seekers to be recognized as refugees and receive the paperwork necessary allow them to work.

The micro-credit scheme is part of UNHCR’s “borders of solidarity” strategy in countries where integrations is the best solution, the agency said.

hundreds of thousands of Colombians have fled conflict to Venezuela in the past ten years, and most of those in need of protection do not have the identity cards needed to access funding, the labor market or business opportunities.

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