The governor of Colombia’s Norte de Santander department on Wednesday warned of a crisis brewing along the Venezuelan border, as huge numbers of Colombians flee the Bolivarian nation to escape persecution.
Governor William Villamizar demanded immediate intervention from governments on both sides of the border, to prevent the situation from boiling over and exacerbating social and economic problems in the region.
Venezuela on Tuesday detained nineteen Colombians who were caught carrying rifles in the northern Venezuelan state of Miranda.
“We are concerned about our countrymen, and we call for the respect of the human rights of those who have been detained. We have a situation of violence and displacement … we have a crisis between the two countries,” said Villamizar.
The Norte de Santander governor called on the Colombian government to pay closer attention to what is happening in the east of the country, and find a diplomatic solution which would provide safeguards to Colombians currently living in Venezuela.
Defense Minister, Gabriel Silva Lujan, demanded during a press conference that the Colombians detained in Venezuela be given due process and treated fairly.
“We view with concern the treatment of Colombians in Venezuela,” he added.
On Monday, Colombian NGO Fundacion Progresar condemned “serious” human rights violations at the Colombia-Venezuela border, which, according to the organization’s statistics, has seen 16,000 murders and 1,800 disappearances over the last decade.
There are thought to be more than two million Colombians living as economic migrants in Venezuela, in addition to hundreds of thousands who fled to the neighboring country as refugees from political violence.