UN officials say the flow of Venezuelan refugees into neighboring countries is building to a Mediterranean-style crisis.
More than 7% of Venezuela’s population—2.3 million people—has fled the country since 2014, according to the UN. That is the equivalent of the U.S. losing the whole population of Florida in four years (plus another 100,000 people, give or take).
The departing Venezuelans have mainly gone to neighboring Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, and Peru, putting tremendous pressure on those countries. “This is building to a crisis moment that we’ve seen in other parts of the world, particularly in the Mediterranean,” a spokesman for the UN’s International Organization for Migration said recently.
This week, Peru made it a bit harder for Venezuelans to get in. The small town of Aguas Verdes has seen as many as 3,000 people a day cross the border; most of the 400,000 Venezuelans in Peru arrived in the last year. So Peru now requires a valid passport. Until now, ID cards were all that was needed.
Ecuador tried to do the same thing but a judge said that such a move violated freedom-of-movement rules agreed to when Ecuador joined the Andean Community. Ecuador says 4,000 people a day have been crossing the border, a total of 500,000 so far. It has now created what it calls a “humanitarian corridor” by laying on buses to take Venezuelans across Ecuador, from the Colombian border to the Peruvian border.
Brazil’s Amazon border crossing in the state of Roraima with Venezuela gets 500 people a day. It was briefly shut down earlier this month—but that, too, was overturned by a court order.
Venezuela is suffering from severe food shortages—the UN said more than 1 million of those who had fled since 2014 are malnourished—and hyperinflation. Things could still get worse, which is really saying something for a place where prices are doubling every 26 days. The UN estimated earlier this year that 5,000 were leaving Venezuela every day; at that rate, a further 800,000 people could leave before the end of the year (paywall).
A Gallup survey from March showed that 53% of young Venezuelanswant to move abroad permanently. And all this was before an alleged drone attack on president Nicolas Maduro earlier this month made the political situation even more tense, the country’s opposition-led National Assembly said that the annual inflation rate reached 83,000% in July, and the chaotic introduction of a new currency.
None of that may get any better soon, prompting more to leave. The International Monetary Fund predicts inflation (paywall) could top 1,000,000 percent by year’s end.