Tensions between Colombians and Venezuelan refugees on the border of the two nations are growing as locals fear the migrants will leave them jobless in their hometowns.
Reuters reports that many Colombians are now fearful that unemployed Venezuelans will undercut their wages and replace their jobs, despite many employers actively rejecting Venezuelans because of their nationality.
As a result, many Venezuelans are the victims of xenophobia from locals becoming angry with increasing crime rates and the large numbers of unemployed people sleeping in the streets.
Last month, citizens of the border town of Cucutá held an anti-Venezuelan protest, which led to the eviction of over 200 migrants living on a sports field and many later deported.
Some people feel loyalty towards the Venezuelans, partly because of the refuge provided to thousands of Colombians during the country’s civil war. Others recognize the gravity of the situation most people are escaping in Venezuela.
Thousands of Venezuelans are crossing the border into Colombia each day to flee the political, economic, and humanitarian crisis that has left millions of people without the most basic of resources and driven the monthly minimum wage down to under one dollar a month.
“I feel so depressed,” said 48-year-old butcher Jose Molina, who is considering returning home due to a lack of opportunities.
“I got sick from eating rotten potatoes but I was hungry so I had to eat them,” he said. “My wife says everything’s getting worse and it’s best to wait. I don’t want to be a burden to them. They don’t have enough to eat themselves.”
An estimated 550,000 Venezuelans have emigrated to Colombia in the past two to three years in what has now become one of the world’s major migration crises.
“It is migrate and give it a try or die of hunger there. Those are the only two options,” 27-year-old Yeraldine Murillo, who plans to work in Colombia to send money back to her son, told the agency. “There, people eat from the trash. Here, people are happy just to eat.”
The Colombian government has already asked for additional international assistance in order to meet the humanitarian challenge presented by Venezuelan migrants, many of whom are in need of basic nutrition and medical assistance and have also confirmed they will provide schooling to children in need.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos also recently beefed up border security by deploying 3,000 additional security personnel along the frontier and suspending the daily entry card system.
Similar tensions have also arisen in Brazil, where thousands of Venezuelan migrants have crossed the southern border into the city of Boa Vista, many of whom are living in slums and have quickly fallen victim to sexual exploitation and slave labor jobs.