Thousands of Venezuelans continue to flee from unbearable poverty, hunger and devastation in their country. Most are seeking refuge in Colombia, and their number is increasing.
Over the past three years, GDP in Venezuela has fallen by 40%. Hyperinflation has eaten savings and salary. 90% of Venezuelans are suffering from lack of food security.
People cannot provide themselves with the bare necessities of life. Desperate Venezuelans live in parks and sleep in the rough.
Medical services have become a luxury for most Venezuelans. According to official data, more than 5 children die each week. Experts point out that this is likely caused by the rampant malnutrition. The mortality rate of pregnant women and newborn babies has risen rapidly to around 30%.
Almost 5,000 Venezuelans cross the border of Colombia every day. Nowadays, the number of immigrants into Colombia draws close to a million.
However, Colombia has also recently emerged from a long civil conflict, making it very hard for the country to absorb an ongoing stream of migrants.
The position of many Venezuelan immigrants in Colombia is not better than it was in their homeland. As they do not have documents, they are unable to be employed legally. So they have to look for food, sleep out of doors, and avoid deportation.
In Cucuta, Columbia, you can see many Venezuelans selling cigarettes at the traffic lights, and working as prostitutes to earn food.
“I spent my first week in Cúcuta selling arepas on the streets, then empanadas, then bottles of water – anything to make a bit of money,” says 27-year-old Yamileth Medina, who left Venezuela in July.
As the number of migrants increases, tension with the local population also increases.
Many of them are discriminated against, because Colombians are also afraid of losing their jobs, as the stream of migrants looms too large.
The scale of migration has increased so much that it’s being compared to the Syrian refugee flow to Western Europe in 2015.
Alena Tereshchuk (Kiev, Ukraine)
(translated by Viktoria Yanchuk)