UN Urging Temporary Protection in LatAm for Fleeing Venezuelans

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The UN migration agency is urging Latin American countries hosting growing numbers of Venezuelans fleeing economic crisis to give them temporary rights to stay, its deputy chief told AFP on Wednesday.

"There is indeed a spike in arrivals" in several countries in the region, Laura Thompson of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said after a two-day migration conference in Costa Rica that discussed the accelerating outflow of Venezuelans.

"Not everybody is asking for asylum. There are a lot of Venezuelans that are moving out of the country without specifically asking for asylum," she said.

"What we have advised is for countries to take temporary protection measures, even for those that are not asking for asylum."

Certain countries, such as Colombia and Peru, have already extended measures to allow Venezuelans to stay for a time, she said. Others, such as Chile, were considering following suit.

Yet others, however, lacked laws permitting a temporary protection status, Thompson said.

"Every single country is trying to take measures depending on the size of the influx and then needs," she said.

Venezuela's economic slide tipped into crisis when oil prices collapsed. Food and medicine shortages are now common, and it has the world's highest inflation rate.

As a result, droves of Venezuelans have emigrated.

According to a report by the IOM and the Organization for American States presented at the conference on Tuesday, asylum claims from Venezuelans have soared this year in Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico.

In Panama, for instance, there were 12,756 applications for refugee status from Venezuelans in the first half of this year -- nearly three times the number received for all of 2016.