The Venezuelan exodus to the Colombia border
The number of Venezuelans fleeing their home is accelerating at a “staggering” rate, the United Nations reported Friday, as the South American nation is caught in a political struggle and grinding humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said there are now more than 4 million Venezuelans living abroad — and that 1 million have left in the last seven months alone.
“The pace of the outflow from Venezuela has been staggering,” UNHCR said in a statement. “From some 695,000 at the end of 2015, the number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela had skyrocketed to over 4 million by mid-2019.”
Neighboring Colombia is now home to 1.3 million Venezuelans, followed by Peru with 768,000, Chile with 288,000, Ecuador with 263,000, Brazil with 168,000 and Argentina with 130,000. However, almost every country in the region is hosting “a significant number of Venezuelans,” UNHCR said.
Most countries have taken unprecedented steps to help the migrants, including allowing them to enter on expired passports and providing residency and work programs. But that might be changing.
Peru, which has had some of the most welcoming policies toward Venezuelan migrants, announced Thursday that it will begin requiring them to apply for visas at Peruvian embassies in Venezuela or Colombia.
The new requirement comes as dozens of Venezuelans have been expelled from Peru after committing crimes and as President Martín Vizcarra is facing pushback from those worried about what they see as uncontrolled immigration.
Colombia has also complained that the international community isn’t doing enough to help Venezuela’s neighbors handle the influx, which is taxing the region’s health, education and social security systems.
“These alarming figures highlight the urgent need to support host communities in the receiving countries,” said Eduardo Stein, the special representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants for UNHCR and the International Organization on Migration. “Latin American and Caribbean countries are doing their part to respond to this unprecedented crisis, but they cannot be expected to continue doing it without international help.”
Venezuela has been trapped in an economic and humanitarian crisis for years amid falling oil production, hyperinflation, and widespread corruption and mismanagement. More recently, economic sanctions from Washington and elsewhere are thought to be exacerbating the crisis.
Leader Nicolás Maduro is fighting for his political survival against Juan Guaidó, the head of congress whom the United States and more than 50 other countries consider Venezuela’s legitimate president.