Venezuela remains one step behind Syria, as the country with the most migrants and refugees in the world. The crisis caused by Chavismo has expelled more than 5.6 million Venezuelans in its territory, and the Colombian-Venezuelan border has been a common option among those most affected by the crisis. Before the pandemic arrived, 5,000 Venezuelans crossed the Simón Bolívar bridge daily that connects the Venezuelan state of Táchira with Cúcuta (Colombia). But since March 2020, the pace of immigrants and refugees has slowed due to the border closure. However, up to 700 people manage to cross uneven roads every day fleeing the devastating crisis. Now, the government of Iván Duque is considering reopening the passage through Cúcuta, and if the decision is made, it would also open the possibility of a greater number of displaced persons. The figure could exceed 7 million people in the coming months, thus surpassing Syria.
Approximately 90% (4.7 million) of Venezuelans who have left their country (since 2015) are distributed in Latin America and the Caribbean. “If the usurpation of Nicolás Maduro is prolonged any longer, as it has unfortunately been prolonged, and if the border that has been closed for more than a year due to the pandemic is opened, we estimate that between the end of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, there will be more Venezuelan refugees than Syrians, “the coordinator of the Venezuelan migratory crisis at the Organization of American States (OAS) told ABC. David Smolansky. In that sense, the former Venezuelan mayor specified that of the more than five million Venezuelans in exile, 51% are men, while 49% are women.
Syria, which has been at war for more than 10 years, has 6.7 million displaced people. In second place is Venezuela with 5.6 million people. It is followed by Afghanistan with 2.7 million, South Africa with 2.3 million and Myanmar with 1.1 million displaced by 2020, according to figures revealed in an OAS report. The Venezuelan migratory wave is considered the one that has had the greatest impact in the recent history of the region. The OAS also explained in its report that “the Covid-19 pandemic worsened the Venezuelan migration crisis. Although the outflow was slowed by the closure of borders and mandatory confinement, these measures increased the difficulties faced by Venezuelan migrants and refugees and, therefore, the challenges of care, protection and integration.
Smolansky affirmed that Colombia continues to be at the top of the list of countries that have welcomed, with 1,729,000 Venezuelans in its territory. It is followed by Peru (1,000,000), Chile (457,000), United States (422,000), Ecuador (417,000), Brazil (262,000), Argentina (180,000), Panama (120,000), Dominican Republic (114,000) and Mexico (100,000) . Spain, for its part, has more than 300,000 people, and is the country with the largest community of Venezuelans outside the American continent. These are to mention a few of the countries that have given refuge to citizens who have left a country that is not at war like Syria. “If there is no solution in Venezuela in the short term, Venezuela could have more migrants and refugees than Syria,” the OAS warned in its report. According to the agency, currently, the number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees is greater than the population of Norway, which has 5.3 million inhabitants.
Since Covid-19 arrived in Venezuela in March last year, “it is estimated that between 500 and 700 people left for Colombia on irregular roads. While approximately 200 arrived in Brazil. In other words, the migratory flow continued to be active despite the pandemic and despite the closed border. Since November and to date, around 900 people have left every day, ”Smolansky explained to this newspaper. This record remains an equally alarming figure for the oil country.
The Foreign Ministry of Colombia announced on Wednesday through Twitter that it began a project of evaluation of the relevance of opening the border on June 1, taking into account special biosafety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But this initiative of the Duque government was not seen with good eyes by Maduro, who considered that the decision is “unilateral”: “For good reasons, with controls, you can open the borders. The hard way, nothing, “said Maduro on Sunday, while accusing his Colombian counterpart of seeking to” disturb the border “to” divert attention “from the protests that have taken place in the New Granada country.
The opacity of the regime
For the Nicolás Maduro regime, the Venezuelans who left after the anti-government protests of 2017, 2018 and 2019, are around 600,000 people, based on data collected by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), a body attached to the Chavista government. Since this mobilization of Venezuelans began to register around the world, the regime has limited the publication of official data. And although on several occasions Maduro has acknowledged that his fellow citizens have left Venezuela in search of “a life opportunity, an economic opportunity” in the United States, Spain, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, he has also assured that “Many of them, upon arriving in those countries, realized that the reality was different, they are neoliberal countries.”
By far, the figure released by the Chavista president last January is very far from that offered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “In recent years, Latin American and Caribbean countries have faced one of the greatest humanitarian crises and exoduses ever experienced in the history of the region,” Eduardo Stein, joint special representative of UNHCR and IOM, said in December. for refugees and migrants from Venezuela.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism