Photo: AP, retrieved

It’s hard to find exact statistics about how many Venezuelans have left in recent years. Official figures suggest there’s at least 1 million Venezuelan migrants, with more than 600,000 entering Colombia since 2014. Yet the real number could be much higher: there has been a 2,000% increase in the number of Venezuelans seeking asylum worldwide since 2014, and a study carried by Datos Group suggests that 4 in 10 Venezuelans are planning to leave within the next 12 months.

And that’s bound to keep growing.

The scale of the immigration crisis in Colombia has been compared to that of refugees from Syria and Myanmar, with Ian Bremmer, president of political risk consulting firm the Eurasia Group, calling it the world’s “least-talked-about” migration crisis. So why hasn’t more been done to offer protection and assistance to these thousands of Venezuelan migrants?

Colombian President Santos is certainly aware of the problem, being receptive to aid from the international community. Until recently, Colombia provided temporary stay permits to Venezuelans; but last February, Colombian authorities introduced new measures in an attempt to curb migration across the border. These included drastically reducing the number of work permits offered to new Venezuelan arrivals.

The problem isn’t then a reluctance to help, but an inability to cope with the number of migrants.

Refusing legal access to Venezuelans looking to flee, however, is not the answer. While over 94,000 Venezuelans were granted legal stays in Colombia in 2017, hundreds of thousands remain undocumented. This leaves them open to exploitation, forced labour, trafficking, violence and sexual abuse, something that will worsen with stricter entry requirements.  

But a glimmer of hope has emerged over the past few weeks. The UNHCR issued a new protection guidance to address the outflow of Venezuelans, encouraging nations to provide visas and temporary residence permits, and programmes guaranteeing access to basic rights. UNHCR spokesperson, Aikaterini Kitidi, speaking at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, stressed that, in view of the current political and socio-economic situation, Venezuelan migrants should not be deported or forcibly returned.

Why hasn’t more been done to offer protection and assistance to these thousands of Venezuelan migrants?

On March 13, the same day of the UNHCR announcement, the head of the World Food Program, David Beasley, described the flow of migrants into Colombia as “a humanitarian disaster.” He called for international donors to increase funding and, a day later, the IACHR called for Organization of American States (OAS) member countries to put measures in place for the safe passage of Venezuelans.  

On March 20, just a week after this statement, the United States pledged $2.5 million in aid. Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, also met with his Brazilian counterpart, Michel Temer, and discussed the migrant crisis, with Temer saying that “the Venezuelan exodus towards Brazil and Colombia disturbs Latin America.” On April 9, Norway followed suit by pledging a million dollars in humanitarian aid to “vulnerable Venezuelans”, with half that total destined for migrants into Colombia.

None of this is to say that an increase in humanitarian assistance will slow the flow of migrants; it’s unlikely that Venezuelans will return to their country until there is a safe and stable situation to go back to, and aid provisions can only do so much, especially when the Venezuelan government has refused humanitarian assistance. Teachers from both the public and private sectors are leaving at alarming rates, while doctors flee by the thousands. Even President Maduro —who blamed the crisis on an alleged economic war — has expressed concern about the exodus.

So while increased pressure from the international community may not help resolve this crisis, it raises awareness of the situation, encouraging governments to offer greater protection and guarantees for migrants’ Human Rights.

And it certainly goes a long way giving Brazil and Colombia the resources they need to cope.

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40 COMMENTS

    • Well Roy, let’s put it this way. Donald Trump won the Cuban-American vote. I think Hillary won all other Latino-American groups. And Cuban-Americans are twice as likely to vote than other Latino-Americans.

      I would say things worked out pretty well.

    • Well, it’s not a “strategy.” How do you keep these people in Venezuela if there’s no clear political leadership, food or medicines. People are in need and something needs to be done about it. it’s better to provide aid and a safe enviroment than leaving them on their own.

    • Anyone who has the mental strength and courage to turn away from the most hateful and destructive philosophy in history deserves help from the whole world.

      • If you truly believe in democracy, then “the people” are responsible for what is done by the politicians they elect.

        Perhaps, when a country is behaving badly, it should be quarantined completely. Nothing and no one in, and nothing and no one out… until such time as they (and their government) are ready to behave like responsible and civilized citizens of the world.

        Perhaps if people knew that they could directly suffer the consequences of their governments’ actions, they might vote more responsibly. Or, at least do what they have to to undo a error in their voting decisions.

        Sounds a bit harsh? Maybe… but is it a kindness to let a political aberration to survive because the have a population hostage? All that assures is that more hostages will be taken in the future.

        • Fixed: “If you truly believe in true democracy, then “the people” are responsible for what is done by the politicians they elect.”

          Not sure who the “you” is — I’ve not posted about democracy.

          • The “you” was not specifically you. And, it was a follow up comment (or muse, perhaps) to my original comment.

        • Roy I think you are making some dubious assumptions of cause and effect. The suggestion that the longevity of the Castros can be attributed to the United States letting in Cuban refugees sounds great, in fact it sounds like a wonderful cable news talking point in support of radical isolationism, but there’s no evidence of that. I can give you several reasons that account for the longevity of the Castro regime that are provable, one being massive Soviet assistance, and another being Venezuelan assistance.

          Castro has let prisoners out of Cuban jails so that they could go somewhere else and not come back. There is no evidence that he would have released those people back into Cuba (i.e. to work to overthrow Castro) if the international community had not offered them asylum. The logic is a little weak.

          Aside from that, two observations.

          Venezuela has had a long history of accepting political and economic refugees from all over the region and from Europe and other continents. The world properly should offer something back, if you want to look at it from a purely transactional perspective. The countries in the region owe it to Venezuela.

          Secondly, if it is your position that people suffering political persecution and economic hardship should just stand and fight, and should not be granted any assistance or rights elsewhere, how do you account for the history of your country, the people who populate it, and the values and norms underlying the admission of those immigrants?

          If people are fleeing for their lives, the international community has an obligation to assist. Since at least WWII, that has been a well established international norm. Persecuted persons in particular, have a right to safe haven in all civilized countries: we don’t tell them to go back and fix their country or die. We understand that we are all human, and where there is political persecution and hunger, there but for good luck, go all of us as well.

          • Canuck, you make excellent points. My comment was more of a half-baked idea than a policy statement. It stems from a general concept I picked up that says that, in order for any organization to be stable, authority and responsibility must be equivalent at all levels.

          • Roy, I always find your observations interesting. I was a little bit sanctimonious in my response, which was not warranted.

          • No problem Canuck.

            BTW: Although there is no way to “prove” it, I do think that a part of the Castros’ longevity in power stemed from their allowing a safety valve for social pressures by permitting dissidents to escape. The wolves escape or die, and the ones that remain are the sheep.

          • This is a hard topic. Some Belorussians in Belgium told me back in 2007 Lukashenko benefitted greatly from the massive emigration of those who thought differently: it helped by making the ones remaining on average more conform.
            Very telling, a Belorussian professional
            working in Germany told me early this year she knew several Venezuelans living in Minsk…all went to the military academy…
            I wrote about that academy about 10 years ago
            http://desarrollosostenibleparavenezuela.blogspot.de/2010/10/como-sacarle-provecho-un-caudillo.html
            It is not just about tanks or aks…think Sigint etc

            This woman said a couple of the guys, soldiers, had returned to Belarus with their Belorussian wives as the situation in Venezuela was so bad.

            Right now there are more and more Venezuelan engineers working for Rosneft in Russia. One I could talk to briefly admitted
            PDVSA has been destroyed but she did not seem or want
            to connect the dots.

  1. “So while increased pressure from the international community may not help resolve this crisis, it raises awareness of the situation, encouraging governments to offer greater protection and guarantees for migrants’ Human Rights.”

    Yes, it raises international awareness, that’s good. To prepare international opinion for real, severe economic sanctions including zero oil cash, and then a brief military intervention. That’s the only way out, by force, after almost 5 Million people will have fled, after more deadly street protests (Nicaraguan style, to no avail). Chile, Macri in Argentina, Duque in Colombia, plus Brazil will help. Macron can’t wait to hear a few shots and see Chavismo out, not to mention Pompeo, the DEA and the CIA.

  2. Mr. Trump has shown he feels no shame for his cruelty toward refugees. I am confident he won’t be helping Venezuelans any time soon.

      • Why, those U.S. refugees he should feel sorry for, like those U.S. citizens renouncing their citizenship for that of other countries, like Steven Segal, for example….

    • You couldn’t be more wrong:

      Actually, all public statements…by him and his administration…have defined VZ as a dictatorship, censoring freedom of speech, jailing political opponents and dissents, and crushing democracy.

      These are exactly the characteristics that DO qualify Venezuelans, more so than any other LatAm country besides Cuba, for asylum in the U.S.

      Central and other South Americans and Mexicans? They’re the ones shit out of luck under Trump.

      Venezuelans are lucky in this regard.

    • A day late and $18.5 million short, Mr. Poundstone. Always smart to check the news lest one makes an ass of oneself.

    • William, it’s a matter of national security for US in the USA. It’s in OUR interest to intervene militarily, briefly.
      For numerous, specific geo-political reasons I’m tired of detailing here. It’s not about “helping” Kleptozuela. It’s about helping ourselves and the interests of the entire region. If the USA intervenes after some heavy economic sanctions do not work it’s only because they think it would benefit the USA. And doing nothing would hurt the USA. Cappice?

    • Is everyone a refugee? Even the Trump administration is accommodating most of the “economic refugees” (translation for liberals: non-refugees).

  3. “…. a study carried by Datos Group suggests that 4 in 10 Venezuelans are planning to leave within the next 12 months.”

    That would be about 15 million people, a humanitarian mega-disaster the likes of which we have never seen in the Western Hemisphere. I am beginning to change my mind on military intervention. Or at least the threat thereof. As in:

    “Here is what is going to happen, Mr. Maduro. Massive humanitarian aid is coming into Venezuela. It will be administered and distributed by a multinational team comprised of military units from Colombia, Brazil, Guyana, and the USA. Now, we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way.”

    • That’s an interesting thought. Why doesn’t Trump call Mr. Maduro an “honorable man” and offer him massive economic assistance. Buy him off. Have Michael Cohen draw up a contract and cut him a cheque to boot. That’s how these guys operate. That’s their level. No blood need be shed. Nobel Peace Prize.

      Just remember to sign the contract, and have a back up plan that makes sense when he resiles on the deal and comes back asking for more.

  4. The swelling exodus of Venezuelans of all classes seeking refuge abroad is a sign of the total traumatic breakdown of ordinary life in Venezuela , a regime that blatantly cause conditions to deteriorate to such state are by themselves worthy of the strongest condemnation by any civilized nation in the world . So its the other way arround . it is the exodus which is causing outside pressure against the regime to mount …..regardless of whether such outside pressure helps the victims of such exodus obtain more international protection …….

  5. This is more complicated than it appears. But of course, the U.S will get the blame, even for doing more than all other countries combined to assist ex-pat VZs.

    I ain’t gonna pretend to understand the nuances and agreements on how refugees are “defined,” and what rights the host countries are expected to give, services to provide, etc., based on their classification.

    It’s the fucking U.N., for God’s sake. It’s not law. It’s Ringling Brothers.

    However, a major tenet of “asylum” status is that it’s the responsibility of the first “safe” country to process and deal with questionable status immigrant. They can’t “pass it on” to neighboring countries.

    So where in North America do most emigrants who can pay to FLY go, and I’m not just talking Venezuelans. They go to the U.S., of course. So this makes the U.S. their first safe country.

    Because Canada doesn’t grant the tourist visas, and 9 out of 10 Venezuelans prefer to move to the U.S. anyway. Who wouldn’t, if they were choosing North America? They ain’t picking Mexico!

    Of course, we have plenty of idiots on this site who think the U.S. should happily accept ALL immigrants from South and Central America. And the Mideast. Europe. Caribbean. Africa. Asia. And Mars.

    I guess the term “idiot” isn’t quite accurate. Maybe “enemy of the U.S.” is.

    • The vast majority of Venezuelan refugees are not aiming for the U.S., but for other LatAm countries. Chile and Peru are probably the most popular destinations. Unless you already speak English and are a professional of some sort, the U.S. is much more difficult to get reestablished in.

  6. Most if not all ”refugees” are escaping the prison they helped build. They want Chavez policies back on. Why don’t they fight to get what they want? They don’t have cojones, pure cowardice. And of course, they want everything for free, working is dishonorable, being ”el vivo” is what matters to this nationality. The culture that Obama wanted to implement right here at home.

    • – Tú naciste en los EUA?
      – De 0 a 10 con 0 igual a no tener cojones y 10 a tener los cojones más grandes del universo: cuánto crees que tienes tú y cómo puedes demostrarlo? (sin necesidad de enviar fotos)
      – crees que la política socioeconómica de la UE es más parecida
      a la de Obama que a la de Trump? Si es así, cómo explicas el balance comercial entre la UE y los EUA?

  7. No, of course. Enough, my 1911 is waiting here for you and similar. I remember a French telling me in 1983 ”Venezuelan are like cockroaches” – I never understood what he meant. I’m 100% Republican – Go, Trump! Here in Texas, they either adapt or die. Don’t mess with Texas. Cockroaches.

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