Venezuelan Refugees in Colombia Threatened with ‘Social Cleansing’ amid Migration Wave

Venezuelan citizens cross the Simon Bolivar international bridge from San Antonio del Tachira in Venezuela to Norte de Santander province of Colombia on February 10, 2018. Oil-rich and once one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America, Venezuela now faces economic collapse and widespread popular protest. / AFP PHOTO / …

Venezuelans living near the Colombian capital of Bogotá have received numerous anonymous death threats promising to “cleanse” them from society, the Colombian Center for Research and Popular Education reported Thursday.

The threats took place in the municipality of Soacha, south of Bogotá, where pamphlets were handed out warning that the “time for social cleansing has arrived.”

The pamphlets, produced by an anonymous group, declare that on May 21st would begin the “cleansing of Venezuelans and the depraved” from the municipality, reportedly a reference to those from the LGBT community.

Soacha, which has a population of over half a million people, has long received people fleeing Colombia’s own armed conflict and has in recent months also taken in many Venezuelans fleeing the humanitarian crisis in their homeland.

Lawyer José Luis Bohórquez said on the presentation of a report that the threats were a sign of rising xenophobia towards Venezuelan arrivals. “If we continue with the game of normalizing and ridiculing, what will happen is that the Venezuelan population will be a focus of attacks and violence,” he warned.

This month, the Director General of Colombia’s Migration Agency Christian Krüger Sarmiento revealed that over 1.2 million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia as a result of the economic and humanitarian crisis in their homeland, which continues to worsen as Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime clings on to power. Colombia’s Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said last October the country is expecting to receive around four million Venezuelans by 2021 if the Maduro regime is not removed.

The constant arrival of Venezuelans, the world’s largest migratory flow behind those fleeing the Syrian civil war, has caused significant tension within local communities fearing high levels of unemployment, a rise in crime, and potential undercutting of wages.

Last March, angry residents in the border town of Cúcuta held protests against the growing numbers of Venezuelan living on the streets, while another incident saw some individuals show their frustration by dousing migrants in rotten urine.

Similar tensions have also boiled over in Brazil, where last a year a pastor led a mob of around 300 people to an abandoned school where Venezuelans were sheltering. After setting fire to many of their possessions, the mob successfully drove the group out of the building.

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