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Venezuela and Nicaragua: Regional Migration Crisis in the Making Migration Policy Institute


Final Report


Over three million people have left Venezuela in the past few years, at least two million over the past three years alone, in what is emerging as one of the largest migration crises anywhere in the world. This sudden outflow of Venezuelans will have a huge impact on stability, democratic governance, and the relationship among countries in the hemisphere, and could produce significant migration pressures on the United States in the future. 

More recently, Nicaragua has entered into its own political crisis which has begun to generate an outflow of Nicaraguans from their homeland, mostly to the neighboring country of Costa Rica, and signs are that this could become a much greater crisis in the coming months and years if the current government clings to power.

While most of these migrants and refugees have moved to countries within Latin America, Venezuelans are now the top nationals seeking asylum affirmatively in the United States, and the number of Venezuelans living in the United States rose by almost a hundred thousand over the past two years. Nicaraguans recently jumped into the top five nationals seeking to start the asylum process at the border too.[i] These figures suggest that there is already an increasing flow of Venezuelans and Nicaraguans to the United States. There are legitimate questions both about how the countries in Latin America will be able to handle this large an influx of migrants and refugees over such a short period of time, and how this affects stability, governance, and relations in the region, and whether greater numbers of Venezuelans and Nicaraguans will find their way to the United States in the future.

MPI proposes a quick turnaround research project that will explore the dimensions of the crisis, the responses employed by the principal recipient countries in the hemisphere to receive and integrate these new arrivals from Venezuela and Nicaragua, and the major challenges countries in the hemisphere are likely to face in the future, including possible ways that US policymakers could address the crisis proactively. Researchers will conduct both data and field research to develop an understanding of the dimensions of the crisis, to document the current legal responses by countries in the region, and outline major policy challenges for the future. 

We expect this study to help inform public understanding of the growing migration crises from Venezuela and Nicaragua, USG efforts to respond effectively, and regional responses.

[i] U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Asylum Division Quarterly Stakeholder Meeting -- Credible Fear and Reasonable Fear Statistics and Nationality Report,” accessed December 5, 2018,


Presentation | Migration Crises in the Americas

Publication | Latin America's Migration Lesson for the World (A. Selee)   NOTE: This publication was funded primarily through a separate grant but is related to BTI Instituted funded work. 

2019 Annual Meeting Presentation