Over half a million Venezuelans have now migrated to Colombia amid their country’s worsening political, economic, and humanitarian crisis, Colombian migration authorities revealed.
Around 550,000 Venezuelans are now living in Colombia, most of them illegally, with migration figures increasing by 62 percent in the last six months. Just 126,000 have legal permission to stay in Colombia, benefitting from a humanitarian visa introduced last July.
The influx is placing huge pressure on Colombia’s government, whose aid workers are providing migrants with food, shelter, and medical attention. In 2017, approximately 30,000 people crossed the border into Colombia, many of them looking to buy basic things unavailable in Venezuela such as food, medicine, and sanitary products.
Colombia’s finance minister, Mauricio Cárdenas, confirmed last week that he would make an “urgent call” at the upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos for greater steps to be taken by the international given that Colombia remains the country “most affected by Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis.”
“We estimate that there are currently 550,000 Venezuelans or Colombians who were living in Venezuela that are now in our country,” he said. “Colombia has adopted a policy of open arms to these migration flows to show solidarity. We have offered urgent medical attention and school places to all Venezuelans.”
“This all comes at a cost, and Colombia has assumed that cost,” he added.
Meanwhile, the General Secretary of the United Nations António Guterres has promised he would “mobilize international support” to provide additional aid to Colombia to manage the influx.
Brazil and the Dominican Republic are also major destinations for Venezuelan refugees, while the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service announced last October that Venezuela had become the number one source of asylum requests into the United States, surpassing countries such as Syria, Ethiopia, Haiti, and China.
As well as an unprecedented economic crisis that has driven Venezuela’s monthly minimum down to nearly $1 a month, dictator Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime has increased levels of repression against political dissidents in a bid to destroy all opposition while basic human rights are routinely ignored. Last month, Maduro banned the main opposition parties from the upcoming presidential election, which experts believe will almost certainly be rigged.
Relations between Venezuela and Colombia deteriorated in the past year after leader Juan Manuel Santos expressed support towards international pressure against the regime. Maduro has, in turn, described Santos as “very evil” and accused him of trafficking cocaine.