In April 2021, U.S. humanitarian assistance to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) played a key role in reaching an important milestone, the voluntary relocation of more than 50,000 vulnerable Venezuelans from Brazil’s northern state of Roraima to 675 municipalities across Brazil. The United States, through the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), supports Brazil’s “Operation Welcome” program, which serves as a critical first step for vulnerable Venezuelan refugees and migrants looking for a fresh start after being forced to flee the economic and political crisis in Venezuela. Through the program, newly arrived Venezuelan refugees and migrants have the opportunity to voluntarily resettle in communities across Brazil where they have a better chance for economic opportunities and integration. IOM reached another “Operation Welcome” milestone in January 2021 with the purchase of the 10,000th airline ticket to assist Venezuelans seeking safety through relocation in Brazil.
Families make up around 88 percent of all those helped through Operation Welcome. Diannys (alias used for to privacy and protection considerations) flew with her family of five adults and three children. Upon learning of her acceptance to the program, Diannys explained her family’s response to the news: “It was challenging to leave my country, but I am very grateful to have the possibility of coming to Brazil. Above all, we are looking for a better life for our children. IOM helped us a lot, and we are completely grateful to them.”
Operation Welcome also provides a “Passport for Education” kit for Venezuelan children participating in the program. The kit includes bilingual materials for school enrollment processes in Brazil and basic educational and cultural orientation for the families and their children.
PRM provides humanitarian aid for initiatives like Operation Welcome to help alleviate the suffering of refugees, migrants, internally displaced people, stateless people, and other vulnerable populations of concern. Since 2017, the United States has provided more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance both inside Venezuela and throughout the region, of which nearly $441 million was provided by PRM. In Fiscal Year 2020 alone, the United States provided nearly $529 million in essential humanitarian relief in Venezuela and the region. Together with our international humanitarian partners, we proudly stand with the 17 nations hosting Venezuelans in need: Argentina, Aruba, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.
“It was challenging to leave my country, but I am very grateful to have the possibility of coming to Brazil. Above all, we are looking for a better life for our children. IOM helped us a lot, and we are completely grateful to them.”DiannysOperation Welcome Beneficiary
About the Author: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lesley C. Ziman joined PRM in 2020. She is responsible for humanitarian assistance programs in Europe, Central Asia, and the Americas. She also overseas PRM’s Offices of Policy and Resource Planning; and the Comptroller. She is a career member of the Senior Executive Service.