Venezuelan migrants pass the welt couple in Colombia

For decades, the Venezuelan territory was a recipient of migrants from various countries of the world. Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese, Russians, Chinese, Arabs, Chileans, Haitians, Peruvians, Bolivians, Dominicans, Ecuadorians and Colombians, among others, arrived fleeing economic crises and conflicts in their nations, and in search of opportunities that Venezuela offered them for its economic bonanza. 

“Venezuela was for a short time, but in an unforgettable way in my life, the freest country in the world. And I was a happy man, perhaps because never again since then have so many definitive things happened to me again for the first time in a single year (1958): I was married forever, I lived a flesh and blood revolution, I had a fixed address, I was locked in an elevator for three hours with a beautiful woman, I defined forever my conception of literature and its secret relationships with journalism, I drove the first car and suffered an accident two minutes later, and I acquired a political clarity… ”, it said Gabriel García Márquez, in his text La Infeliz Caracas. He lived in the capital in 1958, happy and undocumented, working as a journalist for the Venezuela Gráfica and Elite magazines. 

And it is that since the 50s, around 5 million Colombians have arrived in the country, fleeing the prolonged war that that nation faces, which has left nearly 260.000 dead and millions of displaced people. Now, the migratory flow has changed and since 2016 hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have left the country, due to the economic crisis that affects Venezuela, deepened by the United States sanctions. The diaspora has settled in neighboring countries: Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile and Brazil, among others. 

And of those countries, the New Granada nation, with which Venezuela shares a porous border of more than 2.200 kilometers, has been one of the main destinations for Venezuelan migrants. According to Migración Colombia, by the end of 2020, there were 1.717.352 Venezuelans in its territory, of which 947.106 were in an irregular condition. 

Colombia is considered a middle-income country, with significant social inequality, with high rates of labor informality, inexperience in the inclusion of migrants (generally they are not recipients but emitters of migrants) and criminal groups that promote a history violence well above the world average. 

Comanche territory. So far in 2021, there have been 68 massacres in Colombia (with 247 victims), 194 homicides of young people between 12 and 17 years old, 112 social leaders and human rights defenders murdered or disappeared, 34 former combatants of the defunct Armed Forces Revolutionaries of Colombia (Farc) -signatories of the peace agreement- and 320 women assassinated.

The figures are from the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (Indepaz), which is dedicated to the defense of human rights in Colombia.  

The X-ray of crime in the neighboring country during 2021 is overwhelming, which triggers alarms in Venezuela, since Venezuelans appear in that daunting figure. A good part of the Venezuelan migrants, many of them children of Colombian parents or citizens of New Granada who return to their homeland, have been involved in this spiral of violence that affects Colombia.  

Until last month, 362 Venezuelans have been murdered in the neighboring country, according to the report Serious human rights violations against the population from Venezuela in Colombia (2019-2020), published by the Colombian NGO Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplaizaje ( Codhes), worrying data that show signs of the violation of the human rights of migrants.  

The report indicates that 88,1% of the victims are men under 29 years of age, while 11,9% are women, and the firearm is the most widely used death mechanism. 

This NGO, with 30 years of work, when making a comparative analysis between the official figures of the National Police, Legal Medicine, the General Prosecutor's Office and the data of the Codhes Information System, highlights that between 2015 and 2020 there were 1.933 homicides of migrants and Venezuelan refugees.

It highlights that homicides have increased steadily since 2015 and that sexual crimes in the Venezuelan population persist as a phenomenon of special risk for women. 

Between January 2019 and August 2020, the areas where the most cases of this type occurred are: Norte de Santander (181), Bogotá (147), Santander (127), Valle del Cauca (110). And for the first semester of 2021, Valle del Cauca (31), Antioquia (26), Santander (22), Norte de Santander (15) and Atlántico with (13), are the territories where there is the highest sexual assault. 

The situation is so alarming that in 2020 a Venezuelan woman in Colombia was twice as likely to die violently as a Colombian woman, according to Legal Medicine Colombia. And the risk is 39% higher of suffering intimate partner violence; and 28% of being subjected to sexual violence. 

And the risk situation applies to both genders. For both sexes, the probability of suffering any type of violence was 21% more for Venezuelans than for Colombians; Venezuelan men were 14% more likely to die in homicide than their Colombian counterparts.

According to the Regional Survey of Evictions of Refugees and Migrants of Venezuela, R4V, carried out in February 2020, aimed at measuring the degree and forms of vulnerability among Venezuelan migrants, particularly those with problems to have stable housing, points out that one in four would have suffered some type of aggression since leaving Venezuela. The most frequent of the aggressions is, paradoxically, the one of which they are accused so much: theft.

All of this has been aggravated since last year by the covid-19 pandemic, which has caused havoc in the neighboring country due to the mismanagement of the health emergency. So far there are almost 5 million infected and more than 125.000 dead. 

For Marcos Romero, director of Codhes Colombia, "the Colombian State has the obligation to guarantee the protection of the rights of Venezuelans residing in the national territory."

“When there is a situation of forced migration, the State must comply with the protection of the human rights of migrants; in this sense, Colombia has the responsibility of guaranteeing respect for the rights of the migrant population, ”says the NGO report.

However, it is difficult for the Government of Colombia to guarantee the protection of Venezuelan migrants if the figures show that not even a large part of its citizens are offered it. 

Xenophobia in paste: As if the above described were not enough, the majority of Venezuelan migrants today are victims of xenophobia, which is expressed in its different forms: racism, misogyny, homophobia and even hatred of the poor. 

 “This is an ultimatum for Venezuelans. They have two weeks to retire. We will kill each one of those who are in Subachoque, work or not, steal or not. We don't want them anymore, get out of here, ”said an audio that was broadcast on social networks and that would have been generated in Subachoque, Cundinamarca. 

This type of threat has also had echoes in Cúcuta and Arauca, where Venezuelans reside. Since 2017, pamphlets have been circulating threatening to kill Venezuelans who are committing crimes. The groups that would be behind the messages would be the ELN, the Araucano Social Cleaning Group and the criminal gang Los Urabeños. 

Xenophobia has also mutated on social media. In a study by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on what Colombians say on social networks regarding Venezuelans, many messages of hatred, rejection and fear towards foreigners were detected. 

In the study, in which more than 14.000 concepts were analyzed, UNHCR found that Colombians associate the arrival of foreigners with the increase in unemployment, crime, prostitution and the sale of narcotics.

Meanwhile, the Xenophobia Barometer platform reported that last August there was a 731% increase in hate speech in Colombia and in the messages there was incitement to violence against the migrant population. He notes that between the 11th and 12th of that month, more than 2 million users commented against the migrants and the most used words were "plague", "criminals" or "disgusting". 

For some analysts, what happens in Colombia and in other countries around Venezuelan migrants has a lot to do with the issue of aporophobia, that is, the rejection that is expressed towards the poor. Hence, they emphasize that what really bothers is not the foreigner but the poor foreigner who asks and bothers.

The press and international organizations have warned against this evil that affects Venezuelan migrants. And in the New Granada nation he realizes repeated actions in this regard, ranging from refusing to rent a house to throwing Molotov cocktails or threatening them with death. Given that the cases are not isolated, campaigns have already been carried out, promoted by international organizations, to avoid this type of rejection and, therefore, acts of violence.

They do not help. In this animosity, which is not only generated by a part of the population of that country, the position of the Colombian authorities is no different. Although he later rectified, the announcement by the president of Colombia, Iván Duque, that he would not include Venezuelan migrants in an irregular situation in the mass vaccination scheme against covid-19, added fuel to the fire. Duque said that, without these conditions, the Government would be “almost (making) a call for a stampede; for everyone to cross the border to ask to be vaccinated ”.

Duque then tried to collect the spilled water and launched what he called the Temporary Protection Statute for Venezuelan Migrants, which is considered by some to be veiled discrimination.

In the opinion of Lucía Ramírez, a member of the Colombian NGO De Justicia, the statute -which seeks to regularize and integrate migrants- presents aspects that are worrying: Requesting biometric data as identification of the migrant population is not effective, efficient, or safe because it involves a differentiated treatment from other population groups, and the presumption of innocence is violated by not allowing people with ongoing judicial and administrative investigations to receive permission.

The mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, has been relentless with her attacks on Venezuelan migrants. In mid-August, he announced the creation of a joint operations command to combat the crime of "criminals from the migrant population." 

The NGO Temblores reminded López that the stigmatization of foreigners has material effects "on the integrity and life of those who have migrated to our country." 

Unfortunately the data shows this and today the majority of Venezuelan migrants living in Colombia are undocumented but not happy, as was El Gabo when he passed through Caracas.

Radiography

  • Integration. Latin American governments must move from humanitarian response to long-term integration policies for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, including regularization, says the International Organization for Migration. 
  • Unemployment. In Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, unemployment rates are higher for Venezuelans. 
  • Informality. Despite their high educational level, many Venezuelans have only been able to access informal jobs.
  • Low wages. In Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, due to the pandemic, Venezuelans said their income had fallen more than 50%.
  • Health. In Colombia and Peru, health care is not universal and very few have health insurance.
  • Deportation: Human rights organizations denounced the violation of international treaties for the protection of migrants and refugees, given the massive deportations of Venezuelans, by Chile, a country that, after Colombia and Peru, is the third nation with the highest number of Venezuelan migrants .

In figures

1.717.352 migrants

According to Migración Colombia, by the end of 2020, in that nation there were 1.717.352 citizens of Venezuelan nationality, of which 947.106 were in irregular condition.

1,3 billion euros

At the so-called I International Donors Conference, held last June, 800 million euros were raised, plus another 500 million in loans, for Venezuelan migrants.  

$ 113.076.033 donated

Colombia has received 113 million dollars to serve Venezuelan migrants and must manage another 669 million more. Iván Duque asks for donations very often.  

1.993 Venezuelans murdered

Between 2015 and 2020, 1.933 cases of homicide of Venezuelans have been registered, with young men and those under 29 years of age being the most victimized. 

In 2021: 362 homicides

So far this year, 362 Venezuelans have been murdered, 88,1% men and 11,9% women, in Cundinamarca, Norte de Santander, Valle del Cauca, Atlántico and Antioquia, among others. 

33 children recruited

Between 2017 and 2020, 33 Venezuelan migrant children and adolescents were forcibly recruited by various armed groups in Colombia.

1.650 displaced

Between 2017 and 2020, these displacements occurred. Norte de Santander is the department with the highest number of victims with 1.097, followed by Cauca with 440.

2.319 rapes

Between January 2015 and August 2020, 2.300 Venezuelans were victims of sexual violence, 88,3% women and 71% of those violated were under 18 years of age.

836 missing

From January 2015 to August 2020, 836 nationals were reported missing. Bogotá is the city where the highest number of cases is registered with 311 registered.

5 cases of trafficking

During the first semester of 2021, the National Police of Colombia registered 5 cases of human trafficking, of which 4 were related to women.

 

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