“We have been negligent,” admitted Colombia’s inspector general Tuesday when calling for emergency measures to avoid Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis spilling over into Colombia’s cities.
Inspector General Fernando Carrillo spoke to the press a day after the country’s chief prosecutor warned the Foreign Ministry about a sharp increase in street crime caused by illegal Venezuelan migrants.
Local media are denouncing widespread xenophobia among Colombians, whose cities have been overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants from the neighboring country.
“We haven’t been strategic. We have been negligent in the control of the border because there have been many isolated efforts, but no integrated approach to the problem,” said Carrillo.
Colombia’s immigration authority estimates that more than 500 people flee Venezuela every day. The socialist-run country is confronted with shortages in food and medicine amid an economic crisis.
The Colombian government waited for months to construct the first shelter along the border, spurring many migrants to sleep on the street.
Hospitals in the border region are overwhelmed by uninsured Venezuelans in need of emergency medical care.
Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez said that 256 Venezuelan citizens were arrested for crimes in January this year alone.
Martinez urged the foreign ministry to “prevent that immigrants turn to crime.”
Carrillo added that criminals are trafficking Venezuelan women for prostitution purposes, a reversed tragedy to what happened in 2002 when 2.5 million Colombians fled to Venezuela to escape violence at home.
The United Nations has offered Colombia aid to deal with the mass migration. United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who was in Bogota on Tuesday, said that his government was also considering sending aid.
President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday called on the neighboring country to “restore democracy.” President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela has accumulated almost absolute power in the neighboring country, causing a stand-off with the opposition.
“The deep crisis the neighboring country is going through — the result of the failed revolution led by President Maduro — has enormous repercussions for Colombia and the entire region,” Santos said.