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Emergency Response: venezuelan refugees in Colombia

Articles and Opinion 20/06/2018
Portada noticia

Emergency Response Venezuela

Riohacha, La Guajira.

For several years, Venezuela was the richest country in South America. However, it is currently in an economic, social and institutional collapse, which has caused a regional humanitarian crisis and massive migration.

This is the worst humanitarian crisis in the west hemisphere, since around 1.6 million Venezuelans have crossed the border and about 800,000 remained in Colombia.

"Tens of thousands of people are abandoning their families out of desperation, hoping to have an opportunity in Colombia," says Provash Budden, Regional Director of the Americas for Mercy Corps.

The Venezuelan migration to Colombia is putting pressure on Colombia's already limited response capacity, since the country faces its own internal crisis. More than 7 million Colombians - second in the world after Syria - are internally displaced after decades of armed conflict. Many are marginalized, rural, indigenous and Afro-Colombians who have not met their basic needs.

Tensions are rising as Colombians see Venezuelans take jobs at a lower salary than legally permitted in Colombia, which is also an exploitation working salary for Venezuelans.

"If I had breakfast today, I can not have lunch," says Luis. "And if I had lunch today, I will not be able to dine ... I have to choose a meal a day"

The situation is so critical that thousands of Venezuelans have fallen into extreme poverty, starving and therefore have had to emigrate looking for new opportunities to survive.

Between 20,000 and 30,000 Venezuelans live today in the city of Maicao, in Colombia, an hour from the border with Venezuela. Some survive doing informal jobs, while others sell merchandise on the streets. However, they spend their nights in the parks or on the same streets. Those who had a good day of sales, rent a place to sleep, most of the time is shared with several families in the same situation.

After conducting an evaluation, Mercy Corps was able to determine that what refugees most need is a legal status in Colombia, work, health, and of course, food.

"In this desperate situation, refugees and migrants are incredibly vulnerable to exploitation. They need access to health services and resources that help them rebuild their lives. That's why Mercy Corps is here, "says Christopher Allbritton, Director of Media Relations at Mercy Corps.

Currently Mercy Corps Colombia, is committed to help these families and focuses it´s efforts to build with Venezuelans a new life and a brighter future.