Colombia sees new migrant wave from Venezuela

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Colombia sees hope quickly fading that it can stem the steady flow of migrants, even as it grapples with the presence of 1.4 million Venezuelan migrants already on its border.

Rights groups say Colombia unprepared to deal with another humanitarian crisis as new wave of Venezuela migrants arrive.

A tighter squeeze on Venezuela from recent US sanctions will only mean more people pouring into neighbouring Colombia, humanitarian groups warn, even as other South American countries are closing their doors on refugees.

“There is fear of the impact that the new US government sanctions will have on life in Venezuela,” said Marianne Menijvar, Colombia director for the International Rescue Committee, which runs facilities at the border.

“Since halfway through last week and the weekend we’ve seen increased numbers of Venezuelans crossing,” she told Reporters.

She added that part of the spike in Venezuela migration may also include a rush to Ecuador before new immigration restrictions take effect there on August 25.

That could mean more migrant heading to Colombia after the deadline.

Negotiations have broken down between Venezuelan PresidentNicolas Maduro and the US-backed opposition, over the country’s future.

Squalid living conditions

Colombia has welcomed all immigrant children from Venezuela into its school, though many still linger on waiting lists.

It also extends free healthcare to the Venezuelan migrants, although only in an emergency situation, including birth. It has also issued about 700,000 special permits for immigrants to work.

But many young Venezuelan families still sleep in the streets or in squalid conditions throughout all big cities of Colombia.

More than four million people have fled Venezuela following its economic collapse and political turmoil.

The Organization of American States expects that the exodus will further rise in 2020, exceeding the 6.7 million people who fled Syria’s civil war.

Colombia hosts more Venezuelans than any other nation.

 

Zainab Sa’id