Colombia gets $31.5 mln grant to aid Venezuelan migrants

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WASHINGTON, April 12 (Reuters) - A refugee fund set up by the World Bank, the United Nations and the Islamic Development Bank on Friday approved a $31.5 million grant for Colombia to aid Venezuelan migrants and refugees.

The Global Concessional Financing Facility grant provides budget support to Colombia as it works to facilitate access to jobs and basic social services to improve the migrants' lives, the World Bank said. The grant will aid the communities hosting the migrants.

"These non-reimbursable resources will help finance the significant fiscal effort Colombia is making to host and help the Venezuelan migrants in the best way possible."

Specific policy measures include efforts to regularize the status of over 260,000 migrants.

The World Bank estimates that about 3.7 million people have left Venezuela in recent years, and more than 1.2 million migrants and refugees from Venezuela are now living in Colombia.

The influx of migrants and refugees to Colombia has put a severe strain on the country's economy and social services such as healthcare. The annual cost of hosting the migrants, not including infrastructure and facilities, is currently estimated at around 0.4 percent of GDP, according to the Bank.

"The massive and rapid migration from Venezuela presents an unprecedented humanitarian and development challenge for the region today," World Bank Latin America vice president Axel van Trotsenburg, said in a statement. "We need to act now to ensure that the migrants from Venezuela and their hosts get the support they need."

The Global Concessional Financing Facility was launched in 2016 as a response to large numbers of refugees fleeing Syria to Jordan and Lebanon. In two years, the facility has approved $500 million in grants that have unlocked $2.5 billion in concessional financing for development projects aiming to improve the lives of refugees and their host communities.

The fund said contributions for the Colombian grant came from Canada, the Netherlands, Norway and Britain.

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