The flow of Venezuelans across the Colombian border is quickly becoming an exodus amid the country’s worsening humanitarian crisis, as well as fears of the creation of a “constituent assembly” that will codify the country’s dictatorship into a new constitution.
On Tuesday, the head of Colombia’s migration department, Christian Kruger, told reporters that Colombian authorities are on high alert for any potential wave.
“Every immigration official knows what border control point they need to go to and what equipment they need to take in case the situation arises,” he said. “That plan has been activated, and if we need it, we can have people there within 24 hours.”
“Migration Colombia reports that more than 26,000 Venezuelans crossed the border on Cúcuta this Monday,” a tweet from Venezuelan network Venevisión said on Tuesday.
— Noticiero Venevisión (@noticierovv) July 25, 2017
Director Nacional de Migración Colombia revela movimiento de 26 mil venezolanos en las últimas horas por la frontera. pic.twitter.com/u30FJC2OVe
— Esmeralda Rojas (@Esmerojaso) July 24, 2017
“I have never seen so many people together intending to leave the country,” said Carlos Chacón, a local councilman told the PanAm Post. “Nothing before compares to this migration, they are no longer mere lines of people. This has become an open-air concentration to stamp passports.”
Images on social media also showed enormous waves of people waiting to cross the border.
“Massive migration of Venezuelans heading to Colombia via Cúcuta, looking for medicine, food, work, hope,” a local information board posted.
Migración masiva de venezolanos a Colombia (vía Cúcuta), buscando medicinas, alimentos, trabajo, esperanza pic.twitter.com/Wpr7ya42xy
— SALA DE INFORMACION (@saladeinfo) July 25, 2017
“Tens of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing civil war, in its first phase, via Cucuta, after the Constituent Assembly, God knows what will happen,” journalist Ricardo Nuñez Fornes wrote.
“The passing of Venezuelans towards Cucuta has risen due to unemployment and the upcoming elections on 30th July,” another account wrote.
|Paso de Venezolanos hacia Cúcuta se aumentado debido al paro cívico y las próximas elecciones del 30 de Julio| pic.twitter.com/ObMaldC2Me
— BolivarCucuta (@bolivarcucuta) July 24, 2017
Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have left the country in recent years amid the country’s economic collapse, which has led to chronic shortages of basic resources such as food, medicine, and sanitary products like tampons, toothpaste, and toilet paper. According to recent analyses, 95 percent of basic medicines required for a functional health care system are now unavailable, while a majority of Venezuelans go to bed hungry and 15 percent of people scavenge food just to survive.
Despite three minimum wage hikes over the course of 2017, the country’s minimum wage is now worth under $30 a month amid skyrocketing inflation, while in Colombia the minimum monthly package is approximately $250.
Many also flee in fear of political violence, as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro plans to create a “constituent assembly” that will annul the existence of the opposition-controlled National Assembly and replace it with handpicked government representatives, tasked with writing a new constitution.
Large scale anti-government protests are also daily occurrence across the country, regularly descending into violence as security services use force – including water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas – to contain them. According to an ongoing analysis by Venezuelan outlet RunRunes at least 116 people have died as a result of the unrest.