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UNHCR Considers Over 3.5 Million Venezuelan Migrants Refugees

FILE - A worker, a migrant from Venezuela, carries a newly made coffin for victims of COVID-19 to a storeroom at a coffin factory in Lima, Peru, June 4, 2020.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says the more than 3.5 million Venezuelans who have left the country in the past five years are officially considered refugees.

The UNHCR announcement that coincided with World Refugee Day on Saturday, said the Venezuelans were being added to the total number of refugees worldwide.

"Well, this decision comes after a very wide discussion in the organization on how to categorize the Venezuelans that have been displaced abroad,” said Luis Fernando Godinho, UNHCR spokesperson in Brazil. Since last year, he said, the UNHCR has said that these people need international protection and thus should be recognized as refugees.

The agency’s classification also includes thousands of people from Central America who crossed into Mexico last year, hoping for a better life in the United States after escaping credible life-threatening situations prompted by criminal organized groups in their own countries.

The refugee agency said fleeing violence in the country of origin was sufficient reason for a migrant to be classified as a refugee.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has asked host governments to give refugees and asylum seekers the same benefits as their own citizens.