According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in 2007 there were 907 recognized refugees in Venezuela and 9,602 registered asylum seekers awaiting decisions by Venezuela’s National Commission for Refugees. About 200,000 people have not requested formal recognition as refugees. Most of the population do not have access to information on their rights or legal procedures. As a consequence, there are concerns of exploitation and discrimination.
Since 2007, HIAS has implemented a Psychosocial Assistance Program for Colombian Refugees in Venezuela, in coordination with UNHCR. The program began in Apure and Tachira Provinces with the aim of improving durable solution options for this refugee community, preparing individuals for integration into Venezuelan society or in their resettlement destinations, and creating the opportunity for a safe and voluntary return to Colombia when that is feasible.
The Program's specific objectives are:
- to provide direct psychological services to survivors of torture and trauma in individual and group settings;
- to offer therapeutic, community-based workshops, such as literacy training, recreation groups for children, and parenting workshops, that enhance the capacities of refugee survivors attempting to integrate into their communities;
- to increase the capacity of Venezuelan service providers and refugee agencies assisting this population through peer trainings by HIAS psychologists.
During the first year of services approximately 900 people received psychosocial attention.
The HIAS staff of psychologists has become an integral part of the protection regime in Venezuela. The staff has developed a multi-sector approach combining mental health services and a spectrum of essential information and material aid to promote local integration.
HIAS also promotes the development of local capacity by hiring and training local staff in the proven principles and methods of intervention and working closely with a network of local institutions and grassroots organizations.