Venezuelan migration began to occupy a place in the regional agenda from 2015, when the exodus began to have a different undertone than in previous years. It was then that neighboring countries turned mainly to this migratory phenomenon which required special attention, as it was nothing like the migration received in the first years of the Bolivarian revolution.
It was to be expected that, until the economic and social situation improved in Venezuela, migration would increase. Over time, those fleeing the crisis would leave in worse conditions and with greater needs to be met by host countries.
However, due to the rapidity of the deterioration, the region did not have enough time to prepare institutionally and socially for what was to come.
It is not the first highly affected migratory movement in Latin America, but it is the first to develop on a large scale in a short period of time. More than five and a half million people have migrated since 2015.
This latest wave is the one that needs the most attention due to the precarious conditions of displacement and the fact that the reception sites did not have minimal assistance, which created difficulties in helping migrants.
These deficiencies are linked to the historical needs of the host populations who, in some cases, claim their priority as nationals. This has accentuated an increase in xenophobic expressions and in some cases migrants have been held responsible for their own miseries.
In 2020, more than 400 Venezuelans were murdered in Colombia alone, and several of those cases were linked to manifestations of discrimination.
In this context, it is not uncommon for migrants to be held responsible for their situation and the dangers they have encountered on their escape routes. Whether they are “hikers” who have made day trips on foot through the mountains in the face of low temperatures and pressure from armed groups, or “rafts” who decide to flee by sea in precarious boats.
The migration dilemma
Although political persecution has taken place since the arrival of the revolution, the deterioration of living conditions became visible to the international community with the arrival of Nicolás Maduro to power. However, the crisis is only the consequence of a project to control the population through impoverishment and absolute dependence on the regime, in addition to a general increase in violence.
But migrating is not easy. With extreme poverty close to 90%, a depreciation of the exchange rate, low income covering only 0.4% of the basic food basket, a hyperinflationary cycle and, in addition, the inability to obtain coins. identity, the departure of the trip is more and more difficult.
Therefore, the Venezuelan migration has not been homogeneous and there are several waves with different characteristics. Impoverishment has marked the trend of migrants in recent years, which has added to runaway inflation and the de facto dollarization of the economy which has made remittances insufficient, predicts for this 2021 a significant increase in migration with the departure of entire families.
Question of standards and humanity
Those who finally embark on their journey face a journey full of difficulties and risks. Although the vulnerability of Venezuelan migrants has been recognized internationally, they are not always sufficiently protected and, in many cases, are also raped in transit and host countries.
For this reason, many international institutions urgently call for the protection of migrants and the imposition of obligations and responsibilities both on Venezuela and on other countries in the region.
Particular attention should be paid to the case of migration between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago, where more than 100 people crossing on boats died last year trying to reach the island. In some cases, migrants, instead of being sent back, are left to fend for themselves in the middle of the sea, regardless of their condition or age.
In other cases, they are deprived of their liberty and subjected to inhuman treatment in violation of international provisions, or are subjected to networks of trafficking and sexual exploitation, women and children being particularly vulnerable.
However, so far the governors of these two countries do not seem to take this into account and use the violation of rights and political reasons as justifications.
Indeed, for the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the irregular entry of a migrant into the country automatically makes him an undesirable person, which not only limits his own possibilities, but also endangers the migratory situation. any other Venezuelan who helps the.
Migration before Covid-19
As if the Venezuelan crisis were not enough, in March the pandemic and its economic attacks were added. For those trying to survive in the Bolivarian country, Covid-19 is of less concern.
But for migrants, the arrival of the virus has made their conditions more complex, with a significant increase in xenophobic expressions. The association of the migratory flow with the spread of the disease has left migrants even more powerless, in addition to being the first affected in their work, as they are mostly part of the informal economy.
Faced with this situation, nearly a hundred thousand migrants tried to return to Venezuela, in many cases on foot, coming up against a new wall, that of their own country. The Bolivarian regime has prevented the re-entry of its own citizens, accusing them of being biological weapons.
This situation has encouraged the use of irregular border crossings, in the department of Norte de Santander alone, more than 80 crossings of this type have already been identified. Known as “trochas”, they are controlled by illegal groups who control the passage and are part of trafficking and exploitation networks.
Therefore, while many efforts are still needed at the regional level to combat the pandemic and its consequences, the coordinated management of migration should not be abandoned.
Border countries like Colombia and Brazil do not have the institutional capacity to support the care of single migrants, a flow that will certainly increase this year and, given their new characteristics, represents new challenges in taking care of migrants. in differentiated charge.
Translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima
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