Over 1.2 million Venezuelans are now living in Colombia, officials in that country confirmed Monday, directly as a result of the economic and humanitarian catastrophe in their homeland.
Thousands of Venezuelans are still crossing the border into Colombia every day to escape the crisis back home. Many of the arrivals are in need of basic humanitarian assistance such as food and medicine.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, Director General of Colombia’s Migration Agency Christian Krüger Sarmiento said that the influx would continue as long as Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime remained in power.
“As long as dictator Nicolás Maduro continues to violate the human rights of millions of people, we will continue to have this migration,” he said. “Today in Colombia we have over 1.2 million Venezuelans.”
He went on to praise the efforts to the various Colombian states for their efforts to assimilate Venezuelan refugees.
“Let me congratulate the excellent work of state governors in incorporating Venezuelans into productive society,” he continued. “That is what we must do, move from a humanitarian stage to a productive one, in which they themselves can contribute to society.”
#17May Christian Krüger Sarmiento, Director General de Migración #Colombia, ofreció detalles sobre la situación de la migración venezolana en el departamento del Valle. Informa que hay más de 58 mil ciudadanos venezolanos en esa región. Video:@MigracionCol pic.twitter.com/4zsYv2XaL2
— Te Lo Cuento News (@TeLoCuentoNews) May 17, 2019
Sarmiento also attempted to play down fears that the arrival of Venezuelans is causing a rise in criminality amid brewing tensions among local residents about homelessness and potential employment competition.
“Here in the department of Cali, Venezuelans represent less than one percent of criminal activity,” he said. “There have only been 49 Venezuelan citizens detained in the last 3 years.”
A study published last December by the Brookings Institute estimated that up to 8.2 million Venezuelans could flee the country by 2021, joining the over two million who have already left since 2015. Other countries also accepting large numbers of Venezuelan migrants include Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and the Dominican Republic.
Last October, Colombia’s Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said the country is expecting to receive around four million Venezuelans by 2021 if the Maduro regime is not removed from power and the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen.
“In a pessimistic scenario – that is, a scenario that starts from the situation getting worse – we are talking about (receiving) four million Venezuelans in Colombia,” said Trujillo. “According to the baseline scenario, Colombia will receive a number that could reach 2,166,000 Venezuelans.”
“In an optimistic scenario, which would see things improving in Venezuela, the number would be around 1,850,000,” he continued. “We are facing the magnitude of a challenge that neither our country nor the region has experienced before.”