Response of USA to the crisis of Ukrainian and Venezuelan refugees

By: María de Fátima Estrada Ramos y Norly Michel Melchor Valdivia


In just one week, the Russian Invasion of Ukraine has generated more than 1 million people seek for asylum in bordering European nations. Currently, after 100 days, the armed conflict has affected the lives of more than 14 million Ukrainian people, forcing them to leave their homes (BBC, 2022) due to the bombing, destruction of houses, political persecution, and economic crisis, but principally due to their vulnerability condition. Although the refugees' wave has caused the external displacement of more than 7 million people (formed principally by children, women, and the elderly) to culturally and geographically close European nations (ACNUR, 2022); it has also triggered waves of solidarity and union by the estates of the European Union, which have responded through coordinated efforts to provide accessibility and emergency assistance (European Parliament, 2022). However, the old continent hasn’t been the only region that has been committed to assisting the refugees; President Joe Biden also joined this collective responsibility by providing protection and safety mechanisms to the refugees. This scene prompts us to evaluate the responses of the United States to the current Ukrainian exode in comparison with the Venezuelan refugee crisis, considered one of the largest refugee waves in Latin America.


For this purpose, it is necessary to review the 1951 Refugee Convention, protected by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner, which defines the term “refugee” as a person who is outside his or her country of habitual residence due to the fear of persecution, conflict, generalized violence or other circumstances that have seriously disrupted the public order. Refugees flee from conflict or persecution, and due to their condition, they must not return to a country where they face serious threats to their lives or their freedom; thus, they require international protection, a principle considered a rule of the international law (UNHCR).


Considering this framework, the National Safety Department of the United States, announced on March 4th, that they will grant the Ukrainians the temporary protection status (TPS), for those present since March 1st, ensuring that they can stay in the country for 18 months. Additionally, on April 25th, Joe Biden’s government launched the program “United for Ukraine”, which allows Ukrainian people with a USA sponsor, to stay temporarily in the country for two years (WOLA, 2022). In the same line, the call for volunteers to facilitate the transit of refugees in the frontiers has been effective for the entrance of 200 to 300 daily refugees to the United States in the penultimate week of May, a valuable action to the political and military crisis in Ukraine. However, the systematization of the acceptance of foreign populations due to emergency had exclusivity in the provision of assistance towards the Ukrainian refugees in comparison with the lack of facilities for the Central American and South American population. Specifically, regarding the situation of Venezuelan migrants who, due to the political crisis look for a place to live and work, but, compared with the displacement of European refugees, there have been discrimination biases. The condition of humanitarian parole, which involves the exemption of the document regularization for the legal entry into the frontier, has been a principal in the request for a legal temporary permit for the entry to United States (France 24, 2022).


In countries like the European Union, the strict entry with a passport has been suspended due to the Ukrainian refugee situation, which allows them to develop in the region with the right to live, work, and access to the house, medical treatment, and education in the 27 member countries during a maximum of three years (Latinomamerica 21, 2022). These unprecedented humanitarian facilities have led to contrast with the situation of African and Middle East refugees who have also fled from Ukraine. Factors such as discrimination, violence, and obstruction when they try to leave Ukraine are the symbol that this humanitarian action is also racialized, establishing a bigger contrast and reflecting a sort of “oppression in the global system of refugees” (Latinoamerica 21, 2022).

In the face of constant massive waves of refugees in America, and generally worldwide, due to the possibility of continuity of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and the Venezuelan migration, it is necessary that the United States and Latin American governments coordinate efforts of international cooperation to modify their policies and practices through new visa requirements, safety efforts and migratory control to handle the humanitarian assistance towards the refugees, independently to their nationality factor, but prioritizing their vulnerability condition. In this process, it is fundamental the action of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the UN, which need to play an arbitrary role as a political organism that coordinates the regional response (BBC 2018)

Even though the crises represent a challenge for humanity, they are also an opportunity, in this case, to improve the disparity in the crisis of refugees. It should promote the creation of a regional framework regarding migration and collaborative protection in the American continent that respects and handles efficiently and humanly the flow of people who only has fled from their countries as an option to survive (WOLA, 2022).


References

ACNUR. (n.d.). La Convención de 1951. La Convención de 1951. https://www.acnur.org/la-convencion-de-1951.html

ACNUR. (2022, June 7). Ukraine Refugee Situation. https://data.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine

BBC. (2022, June 6). How many Ukrainians have fled their homes and where have they gone? https://www.bbc.com/news/world-60555472

France 24. (2022, Abril 8). De Ucrania a México, la ruta de miles de refugiados para pedir asilo en EE. UU. https://www.france24.com/es/ee-uu-y-canad%C3%A1/20220408-mexico-estados-unidos-frontera-refugiados-ucrania

Parlamento Europeo. (2022, Marzo 29). La respuesta de la UE a la crisis de refugiados de Ucrania. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/es/headlines/world/20220324STO26151/la-respuesta-de-la-ue-a-la-crisis-de-refugiados-de-ucrania#:~:text=Protecci%C3%B3n%20temporal%20para%20quienes%20huyen%20de%20Ucrania&text=La%20protecci%C3%B3n%20temporal%20no%20impide

WOLA. (2022, Mayo 26). Más allá de la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México: Tendencias migratorias en las Américas. https://www.wola.org/es/analisis/mas-alla-de-la-frontera-entre-estados-unidos-y-mexico-tendencias-migratorias-en-las-americas/