Colombia’s foreign minister revealed Tuesday that the country is preparing to receive around four million Venezuelans throughout the entirety of the socialist crisis facing that country, a number comparable to the Syrian refugees that have fled into Turkey.
During a forum organized by the Universidad del Rosario, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation, and the newspaper El Tiempo to discuss the challenges of Venezuelan migration, Colombian foreign minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said that such a figure was the worst case scenario.
“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,” Trujillo said. “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.”
Trujillo’s comments underscore the severity of the crisis faced by the region, as thousands of Venezuelans flee the country every day in need of humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of Hugo Chávez’s failed socialist revolution.
Last week, Colombian President Iván Duque revealed that the fiscal impact caused by Venezuelan migration was approximately half a percentage point of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while the Treasury estimates this figure will grow to around 3.3 million dollars by 2021.
The U.S. and the European Union have provided funds to help aid agencies reduce the financial pressure on Colombia, while the White House continues to impose sanctions and the possibility of military action to oust the Maduro regime.
On Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also announced that the U.S. is now working with governments across Latin America to help stop the spread of diseases such as diphtheria and measles from Venezuela, which are increasingly common among those fleeing.
According to figures released by the United Nations on Monday, nearly two million people have left Venezuela since 2015, nearly a third of the number who have fled Syria in less than twice the amount of time and equivalent to five percent of the country’s population. Around one million of those have gone to Colombia, while large numbers have also gone to neighboring countries including Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Guyana.
“Some 5,000 people are now leaving Venezuela daily – the largest population movement in Latin America’s recent history,”U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) chief Filippo Grandi said on the report’s findings. “A non-political and humanitarian approach is essential to help states receiving them in growing numbers.”
“I congratulate the states that have kept their borders open and offer asylum or other forms of legal stay” he continued. “There is still a lot to be done to ensure the regional coherence of the response provided in terms of protection of individuals.”