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Venezuelan migrants wait outside the Immigration office on Henry Street, Port-of-Spain.

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the economic situation of Venezuelan migrants living in T&T.

This, according to an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) displacement tracking matrix (DTM) exercise done in 2019 and 2020.

In 2019, the IOM polled 2,166 migrants by face-to-face interviews and in 2020, 950 migrants were polled over the phone.

IOM consultant, Leigh Ann Waldropt-Bonair presented the findings of the DTM at a webinar hosted by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies on Friday.

Waldropt-Bonair said 60 per cent of the migrants interviewed in 2020 reported experiencing difficulties in the wake of the pandemic, with the worsened quality of food being the most pressing issue.

“Sixty per cent of the interviewees had experienced difficulties in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the worsened quality of food being the most pressing issue.

“Additionally, 68 per cent of the unemployed respondents had lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

“We are seeing the manifestations and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the migrant population,” Waldropt-Bonair said.

She said there was a slight change in the location of the dependents of Venezuelans living in Trinidad, with more migrants reporting their relatives were in Trinidad in 2020, as compared to 2021.

She said a quarter of the migrants polled in the DTM said they were renting rooms which could lead to overcrowding issues.

Waldropt-Bonair said the 2019 DTM showed a moderate increase in employment but also a significant increase in unemployment.

“As we progressed in our 2020 findings, we note that unemployment also showed an increase in 2020.

“However we are seeing a decrease in employment, which may be symptomatic of the COVID-19 pandemic that has made employment opportunities for migrants and nationals alike challenging,” she said.

Waldropt-Bonair said many migrants reported facing discrimination based on their nationality while some reported witnessing physical and sexual violence during their time in T&T.

“The majority of respondents worked in the construction sector and we were also able to detect that 62 per cent of our respondents had heard of incidents of under-payment, particularly in the construction sector,” she said.

She said the 2020 DTM showed 65 per cent of the respondents lived with over 1,000 children, with those in the zero to four age group making up the majority.

She said migrants reported issues in accessing education for their children and in accessing healthcare.

“Eighty per cent of respondents in both years did not have access to reproductive and sexual health services, this will certainly have some ramifications for the migrant population as well as for the wider national population,” Waldropt-Bonair said.