U.N. agency warns “Venezuelan exodus nearing a crisis point”

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The number of migrants from Venezuela apparently is building toward a “crisis moment” comparable to events involving refugees in the Mediterranean, the United Nations migration agency said on Friday.

Growing numbers of Venezuelans are fleeing economic meltdown and political turmoil in Venezuela caused by its president Nicholas Maduro, where people scrounging for food and other necessities of daily life. This crisis and exodus is threatening to overwhelm neighboring countries.

Officials from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru will meet in Bogota next week in order to seek a prompt solution within the next few days.

The call organized by Ecuador does not have political or ideological overtones and it has not needed Unasur to do it; it is a call to act in front of a problem that should be named accordingly. The role of our country should be directed to request international collaboration, as in Europe in the face of the number of Muslim refugees, which has motivated these countries to take common measures.”

In Brazil, some rioters, this week drove hundreds back over the border of Venezuela. Peru also hardened entry rules for Venezuelans. It is now requiring them to carry passports instead of just national ID cards. However, a judge in Ecuador on Friday rolled back a similar requirement by authorities earlier in the week.

All of these events, experts tell us, are early warning signs, meaning that funding and managing of people outflow must be mobilized.

“This is building to a crisis moment that we’ve seen in other parts of the world, particularly in the Mediterranean,” he told a news briefing.

“On Thursday, the IOM and U.N. refugee agency UNHCR called on Latin American countries to ease entry for Venezuelans, more than 1.6 million of whom have left since 2015. “

Peru’s immigration authority, Eduardo Sevilla, said theywill exempt some Venezuelans from the passport requirement. This is specially true for parents with children seeking to join the rest of their family, also for pregnant women and some that are gravely ill.
Peruvian authorities will also be careful, and be vigilant of attempts of some, to evade the new rule by claiming refugee status.

“Is UNHCR going to take responsibility if that person commits a crime?” Sevilla said to Reuters on Friday. “Our priority is to contribute to security and internal order by clearly identifying people.”
“UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said on Friday that governments had made “commendable” efforts even though some reception capacities and services were overwhelmed. “

Disturbing images” of crimes being committed in the region, had emerged in the past week that risked stigmatizing Venezuelans who had fled and complicating efforts to integrate them.

An Ecuadorean judge, Judith Naranjo, this Friday lifted the order requiring that Venezuelans hold passports to be allowed entry. This is in response to a lawsuit filed by Ecuador’s state ombudsman together with local human rights groups.

“The judge accepted the request for the precautionary measures requested by the ombudsman,”
According to this rule, it gives the government 45 days to develop a plan to address the situation of Venezuelan migrants.

Some people in the Venezuelan government, like Jorge Rodriguez, said today, in an effort to minimize the situation, that a new package of economic measures meant to address hyperinflation would win over Venezuelans who had left the country.

To that effect, Venezuela, this week, cut five zeros from prices and pegged the country’s currency to an obscure state-backed cryptocurrency.

“Critics slammed the plan as inadequate in the face of inflation that topped 82,000 percent in July and is expected to reach 1 million percent this year. “

“The conclusion is that Venezuelans are going to return and furthermore we invite them to return because we need them for this recovery plan,” Rodriguez told a news conference.

Nevertheless, Venezuelans have remained all the more determined to leave their economically collapsing country. It remains to be seen if anyone heeds the call.

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