As has been at the forefront of Latin American news in the past several months, Venezuela is facing a crisis as lack of oil revenues stunts the economy and civil protests against the government continue to erupt all around the country. President Nicolas Maduro is accused of eroding democracy and failing to provide aid to his people. As malnourishment and starvation spread, Venezuelans are left with few ways to get by.
Today thousands of these Venezuelans who are without food and basic necessities are turning west to Colombia for aid and sanctuary. An estimated 25,000 people cross the border to the Colombian town of Cúcuta on a daily basis. They bring with them sickly family members and suitcases to fill with food and supplies that are becoming more and more scarce in their home country. For many, their time in Colombia is the only time they are able to eat or work.
In an effort to help these migrants, the Colombian government has issued border mobility cards to ease their passage across the border. The program has had more than 700,000 applicants thus far. Many of these people only cross into Colombia temporarily, but more and more are starting to move permanently to improve their situation. A low estimate of the number of people that have permanently migrated to Colombia is 300,000, but the actual figure is likely much higher.
The strained Colombian government, already faced with civil conflict, is struggling to support these Venezuelan refugees. Many are actually returning to Colombia after previously fleeing the armed conflict between left-wing groups, Colombian armed forces, and right-wing paramilitaries. Most cannot find work, live in wooden shacks, and struggle to feed themselves and their families. Still, they claim that their lives are far better in Colombia than they were in Venezuela.