More than 150,000 Venezuelans have sought refuge in Colombia illegally while another 50,000 have been granted residency in the first half of 2017, the country’s migration authority said Tuesday.
The illegal Venezuelans entered Colombia legally on a three-month tourist visa, but have since failed to return to their country that has been submerged in a political and economic crisis.
Since Colombia introduced a provisional residency permit for Venezuelan citizens on August 3, 51,177 Venezuelans have been granted this permit and are now presumably staying in Colombia legally.
The migration authority did not say how many Colombian citizens have returned from Venezuela, but earlier estimates indicated this could be twice as many as Venezuelan migrants.
It is also uncertain how many Venezuelans crossed the country’s 2,200 kilometer border illegally.
On a daily basis, some 36,000 Venezuelans have crossed the border, primarily to do food shopping or seek medical help as the neighboring country’s food supply and healthcare system has collapsed.
On average, 34,000 of these people returned home the same day.
To facilitate Venezuelans crossing the border in search of food and medicine, the Colombian government has issues more than half a million border passes that allow Venezuelan citizens to cross the border and purchase basic necessities on the Colombian side of the border.
As government we can not be indifferent to the reality the Venezuelan people face and even less close the door to a sister nation.
Migration chief Christian Kruger
The mass migration of Venezuelans to Colombia has caused friction in the country’s cities as employers have been taking advantage of the crisis by illegally giving jobs to Venezuelan citizens, often paying them less than the country’s $250/month minimum wage.
This has put further pressure on the domestic labor force. Millions of Colombians are without a job or are active in the informal job market now flooded with hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants and Colombians fleeing the neighboring country.
Thousands of Venezuelan women have been forced into Colombia’s almost entirely informal sex industry in order to survive or send money to their families.
Migration chief Christian Kruger asked for tolerance and reminder the country that Venezuela over the past decades allowed the migration of millions of Colombians seeking jobs in the neighboring country’s oil industry and hundreds of thousands of war refugees.
We must remember that decades ago it was us, Colombians, who traveled to look for opportunities in the neighboring country.