What has happened with the Venezuelan exodus?

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According to different international organizations, the number of people who have left Venezuela is above four million, although the government denies it

What has happened with the Venezuelan exodus?
Leer en español: ¿En qué está el éxodo venezolano?

On June 8, Nicolás Maduro partially reopened the bridges that unite Venezuela and Colombia, which had been closed since February. Thanks to this opening, more people managed to cross to the neighboring country, which has been the one that most Venezuelan migrants have received. After this, Migración Colombia sent a report estimating the entry of 18,000 people into the country.

Although the entity said that everything follows regular rhythms, the flow of people once again raises the issue of the Venezuelan exodus. In addition to this, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published the latest figures regarding this situation. More than 4 million people have left Venezuela, which has made this population one of the largest displaced ones in the world and the largest in Latin America.

Read also: Venezuela: Maduro partially reopened the border with Colombia

However, for the ruling party in Venezuela, the data provided by Acnur is false. Jorge Arreaza, Venezuelan Foreign Minister, referred to these figures as erroneous data and nothing more than a strategy to dismiss the government. According to what he posted on his Twitter account, Acnur inflates the figures to receive resources that would not have a certain destination.

He also criticized the incoherence of talking about the hundreds of thousands of migrants in Colombia, when the country itself has areas of extreme poverty such as the department of La Guajira. This criticism originates from the same day that Maduro opened the bridges, on June 8, when Acnur actress and goodwill ambassador, Angelina Jolie, was in that region of Colombia visiting hospitals and refugee centers. The controversy of the subject was that, in that same area of the country, the scarcity of water and basic needs are a problem not only for the Venezuelans who arrive, but also for the Colombians themselves.

This same argument has been used by the Venezuelan government on other occasions. This was the case during the passage of humanitarian aid from Colombia to Venezuela in February 2019, which caused the closure of the bridges. That day, Nicolás Maduro assured that this help was not needed by them, but that it would suit better the people in Colombia who die of hunger in some regions of the country, such as in the border with Venezuela, where the trucks were parked.

Migration in figures

The figure that shows UNHCR and IOM, more than 4 million, begins to count from the end of 2015, when it is estimated that 695,000 people left Venezuela. From that point on, the exodus has been progressive and increasingly fast until reaching the last months, in which there has been the greatest amount of displacements to other countries. From November 2018 to these days, more than one million people have left Venezuela.

According to the UNHCR report, "Latin American countries host the vast majority of Venezuelans, with Colombia hosting around 1.3 million, followed by Peru, with 768,000, Chile 288,000, Ecuador 263,000, Argentina 130,000 and Brazil 168,000. Mexico and the countries of Central America and the Caribbean also host a large number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela." Such amounts make more evident the need for governments to take measures to help with the situation.

However, this figure does not mean that all are in conditions of legality in the countries. On the contrary, although many are asylum seekers and others are in different countries with other legal residence permits, a large percentage of those 4 million are not in legal conditions, which is what is affecting the performance of each country and it complicates government support to normalize the situation.

The Platform for Coordination for Refugees and Migrants of Venezuela (R4V) also published its reports on the migratory status of Venezuelans in the world, especially in the countries where they go the most.

As for those with asylum or refugee status, the official figure was updated in December and reaches up to 464,229 Venezuelans. In this case, Peru, Brazil and the United States are the countries where these applications are being processed. While, for example, in Colombia, being the country that most Venezuelans host, only 0.6% are in that process.

On the other hand, the majority of applicants are seeking residence permits in countries without having to apply for asylum. This number amounts to 1'828.250 and was updated at the beginning of June 2019. In this case, Colombia has the largest number of people who are processing it, with more than 650,000 people.

Although they are high numbers, it still shows that there are more than one and a half million illegal Venezuelans in different countries.

Taking into account both processes, Peru turns out to be the country that is more advanced on the legalization of Venezuelans. In the first case, 50.7% of people are applying for asylum. In the second, 21% are looking for other types of permits to live there. With more than 70% of Venezuelans in legal status in the country, Peru can support migrants and have more control over this situation. Also, in the end, they could also benefit from this. Unlike, for example, countries such as Colombia where, due to the large number of Venezuelans who are undocumented immigrants, creating development plans would be more complex.

* Wait for the next delivery on the actions that the region is taking to welcome the Venezuelans

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

Translated from "¿En qué está el éxodo venezolano?"

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