Study: Venezuela’s Refugee Crisis to Surpass Syria, ‘Largest in Modern History’

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 / …
GEORGE CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images

The exodus of people from Venezuela is about to surpass the gravity of that of Syrians, becoming the “largest and most underfunded” refugee crisis in modern history, according to a study the Brookings Institute published this week.

In one of the most authoritative studies on the issue, the institute found that a staggering 4.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015, equivalent to around 16 percent of the country’s population.

This figure is similar to that of Syria, where 4.8 million people had fled the country four years after the outbreak of the country’s civil war.

In 2019, that figure stands at 5.7 million, with the Assad regime managing to somewhat stem the flow as his troops steadily gain more ground and close in on fully retaking rebel territory.

Matt Perdie

Brookings estimates on current trends the Venezuelan outflow will reach 6.5 million people by the end of 2020, indicating an aggressive acceleration of emigration over the next 12 months.

The main reason for this is that, rather than trying to contain the problem, Nicolás Maduro’s regime continues to move ahead with its vision of turning Venezuela into a Cuban-style communist dictatorship.

What the study also notes is how the international response to the Syria crisis absolutely dwarfs that of Venezuela, with many people around the world unaware of its magnitude. The countries picking up the humanitarian responsibility have largely been in Latin America, particularly Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru, with very little help from the international community.

“Funding is crucial not only for the provision of short-term humanitarian needs, but also for investments in host communities, which promote successful refugee integration efforts,” the study notes.

This claim is heavily backed up by data, with the international community providing a cumulative $7.4 billion in refugee response efforts for Syrian refugees in the first four years, equivalent to $1,500 per person. Funding for Venezuelan refugees has fallen well below that figure, raising just $580 million since 2015, equivalent to $125 per person.

Colombia, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank have all opened up financing options to Venezuela’s legitimate President Juan Guaidó, although the study notes that “given the scale of displacement, much more funding will be required.”

“Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that the massive Venezuelan displacement flows will abate anytime soon, so long as Maduro continues to hold power and the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate,” the study notes.

According to a similar study from the Brookings Institute last year, an estimated 8.2 million Venezuelans will leave the country by 2021, mainly because of “people whose minimum caloric needs cannot be met under these dynamics will eventually be forced to migrate.”

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