Nearly half of the estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans who have fled the deteriorating situation in their country now reside in Colombia, according to the Colombian Migration agency.
The report comes as the western hemisphere’s worst displacement crisis since Colombia’s armed conflict continues to deteriorate, according to international observers. Economic and health conditions in Venezuela continue to falter and food supplies in Colombia’s neighbor to the east remain scarce.
For years, migrants have flooded across the border and into neighboring countries like Brazil and Colombia, or have passed through Colombia to travel other countries like Ecuador, Peru and the United States.
But in 2018, that mass-migration escalated even further, Migration Colombia reported Wednesday. Since the beginning of the year, more than a million migrants have crossed the Colombian border while 675,000 migrants passed through to neighboring countries.
Venezuelan migration to Colombia
Source: Migracion Colombia
How bad things have gotten
Every day, around 4,000 migrants flood over the Colombian-Venezuela border.
“The situation of the migrant Venezuelan population is something that goes far beyond a simple figure,” said Christian Kruger, director of Migracion Colombia in a release. “It is a reality that forces us to unite not only as a society, but as countries, in order to meet the high flow of travelers arriving to our nations.”
In recent months, Venezuelan migrants have been met with a xenophobic backlash in Colombia, especially in border cities like Cucuta brimming with migrants who often have no where else to go but the streets.
Big cities like Bogota and Medellin have seen conflict as more migrants assume jobs in the already full informal job sector. Colombia’s high unemployment rate and millions of internally displaced people were already straining the job market.
In Villavicencio, a city in central Colombia, a Venezuelan migrant was lynched earlier this week in what was reported as a hate crime.
Kruger denounced the rising tensions saying “we reject acts of discrimination towards our compatriots.”
Colombia can’t deal with the fallout of Venezuela’s crisis alone
There doesn’t appear to be an end in sight for the mass-migration. Colombian President Ivan Duque has said that the migration crisis has cost his country 0.5% of his GDP and has urged world leaders to give Colombia and other Latin American countries aid to address the crisis, a request the United Nations later agreed to.
“We will always have a sense of fraternity and open our arms for our Venezuelan brothers,” Duque said earlier this month when welcoming the United Nations’ special representative in charge of coordinating regional efforts to the crisis.