Venezuela’s socioeconomic refugee wave spreads in Mexico

Nearly three million—10% of Venezuela’s total population—have left in the last two decades plus 1.2 million more in the past two years alone
People queue to try to cross into Venezuela from Colombia. Venezuelans cross the border by day to buy food and other products that are scarce in their own country – Photo: Carlos Eduardo Ramírez
15/02/2018
17:41
Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
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Venezuela’s middle and upper-middle classes, for instance, physicians, fashion designers, interior decorators, and models are migrating to Mexico more frequently to escape the economic crisis at home. Others run small eateries with typical cuisine featuring arepas for their growing expatriate community in the southern neighborhoods of Mexico City, but also in the posh Roma and Polanco quarters.

Unfortunately, undocumented fraudsters, petty criminals, and sex workers are arriving as well.

This month, Investigative Journalism and Data Journalism, two sections of EL UNIVERSAL, reported that the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) has reserved Mondays and Tuesdays for the exclusive attention of the Venezuelan asylum seekers at its headquarters in Mexico City, with the financial support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Not everybody knows that they have the right to seek federal protection and the vast majority of legal or illegal immigrants from the South American country—which some experts call “economic refugees”—are doing their best to earn a living.

In 2014, the influx of Venezuelan citizens to Mexico set a record with more than 178,000, and by 2017 Venezuelans hold the first place among the Permanent Resident Card and Humanitarian Permit Card holders, as nearly 30,000 entered the country in the first half of that year, according to the Immigration National Institute (INM).

In the same vein, other countries are receiving a higher number of immigrants, such as the United States, Spain, Colombia, and Chile as nearly three million—10% of Venezuela’s total population—have left in the last two decades plus 1.2 million more in the past two years alone.

End of mediation

In this context, Mexico unexpectedly announced in January its retirement as mediator between the Venezuelan government and the opposition, criticizing the snap presidential elections on April 22.

Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray announced that Mexico would withdraw from the current negotiating process, but “without any doubt”, the country would continue to make “every diplomatic effort available to contribute to the restoration of democracy by peaceful means and according to Venezuelans own decisions.”

Meanwhile, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said his administration needs international aid to cope with the humanitarian crisis caused by hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing over the border to escape the economic crisis.

Colombia’s migration authority has said that the number of Venezuelans living in the country increased 62% to more than 550,000 in the second half of 2017 while Brazil, another neighboring country, also tightened border security and it will declare an emergency in the northern state of Roraima to boost funding and troops to help control the influx of refugees.

The Roraima state government said Venezuelan arrivals represent 10% of the population of its capital, Boa Vista, around 40,000 people straining public services.

Highlighting the upcoming “socio-economic disaster of magnitudes hardly seen before”, The Brookings Institution compared the Venezuelan crisis with the Syrian war and the five million refugees that have left the Arab nation.

“Under this scenario, there is something more that the international community can do: Prepare and implement a plan to deal with outgoing wave of Venezuelan refugees”, the American think-tank affirmed, adding that “multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, together with donor countries—including the U.S.—could provide financial support to countries receiving these refugees.”

Editado por Sofía Danis
Más artículos de Gabriel Moyssen

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