Colombia is preparing for a potential exodus of Venezuelans by drawing up plans for refugee camps, Colombian news outlet El Colombiano has revealed.
According to the report, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has ordered his national security advisor Juan Carlos Restrepo, in coordination with the foreign ministry, to prepare refugee camps for Venezuelans should the country’s humanitarian crisis continue to worsen.
When asked by the website what steps were being taken to prepare for a potential exodus, Restrepo responded: “We know what is required and we will be prepared to address that option.”
The Colombian embassy in Turkey also revealed that Restrepo and other government officials traveled to Turkey in May to visit the refugee camps there, which currently hold thousands of Syrians who have fled the country’s civil war.
“The Colombian government was interested in knowing how Turkey has managed with the unrestricted flow of Syrians, and how the policy of refugee camps have been managed,” the embassy said in a statement.
Emigration from Venezuela has increased exponentially in recent years amid the country’s humanitarian and political crisis that has created chronic shortages of basic resources such as food, medicine, electricity, and sanitary products, as well as continuing civil unrest following socialist president Nicolas Maduro’s creation of an illegal lawmaking body, effectively rendering the country a dictatorship.
Images from towns on the Venezuela-Colombia border have shown tens of thousands of people crossing the border in one day, as they seek to stock up on resources or perhaps leave the country altogether. Despite three minimum wage hikes over the course of 2017, Venezuela’s minimum wage is now worth under $6 a month.
“I have never seen so many people together intending to leave the country,” said Carlos Chacón, a Cucuta councilman told the PanAm Post last month. “Nothing before compares to this migration, they are no longer mere lines of people. This has become an open-air concentration to stamp passports.”
Emigration to other countries has also increased, with authorities in the Dominican Republic last week revealing that nearly 20,000 Venezuelans have fled to the tiny island in the past two years.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan exiles in Miami last week urged Vice President Mike Pence to lobby the administration into providing more migratory permits to Venezuelans fleeing their country in fear of political persecution.