Despite closed border and pandemic, desperate Venezuelans return to Colombia By Reuters

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© Reuters. Venezuelan migrants sporting face masks stroll on Colombian roads in Silos


By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA/BUCARAMANGA, Colombia (Reuters) – Dodging military border patrols, fording rivers and braving low Andean temperatures, hundreds of Venezuelan migrants are making arduous journeys into Colombia in the hunt for a greater life, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Colombia, which slammed its border shut in March to shield towards the unfold of the coronavirus, has lengthy been the highest vacation spot for migrants fleeing financial and social collapse in neighboring Venezuela.

At the start of the pandemic, Venezuelan migrants flocked homeward, unable to discover work when Colombia entered a strict lockdown. Colombian officers estimate greater than 100,000 migrants returned residence.

But, with little prospect of an enchancment in Venezuela’s financial state of affairs, the vast majority of these are ultimately anticipated to strive to return to Colombia, many with kin or associates, mentioned the pinnacle of Colombia’s migration company, Juan Francisco Espinosa.

Hundreds are already crossing illegally every day on foot alongside the porous 2,219 kilometer (1,380-mile) border, avoiding patrols by the military, police and migration officers.

“We’ve been walking for 12 days: experiencing cold, sleeplessness, hunger, counting each day and trusting in God,” mentioned 42-year-old Jose Saenz. He and his eldest son, 22, hope to attain Pereira, within the coffee-growing area of western Colombia, the place he used to work in development.

The father-of-five returned to Venezuela final yr for the vacations and then was unable to return when the pandemic struck. He spoke to Reuters on the facet of a freeway headed to the town of Bucaramanga, nonetheless weeks of strolling away from his vacation spot.

A majority of the estimated 1.7 million Venezuelans who dwell in Colombia are undocumented and make their dwelling informally in development, street-selling or deliveries.

The authorities is predicted to prolong the border closure.

When the border re-opens, some 200,000 migrants are forecast to cross to Colombia inside three to 5 months, taking the overall migrant inhabitants to about 2 million, Espinosa mentioned.

Colombia’s public well being and schooling providers can be found to migrants no matter their immigration standing. The nation has acquired comparatively little help from the worldwide group and repeatedly requested for extra assist.

Controlling the border is shut to inconceivable. There are some 53 unlawful border crossings in Norte de Santander (MC:) province alone, mentioned General Marco Evangelista Pinto, commander of the military’s second division.

“Generally, they come with children, pregnant women, elderly adults and we just tell them they can’t pass here. And what they do is find other places,” he mentioned.

About 300 Venezuelans arrive in Colombia every day through unlawful crossings, migration authorities and the military estimate, risking contact with armed teams and having to ford swollen rivers throughout wet season.

“This is the second time I’ve come to Colombia,” mentioned Yesenia Marquez, 39, strolling alongside a freeway connecting the cities of Pamplona and Bucaramanga together with her two kids.

“I had to return to Venezuela because of family problems and when I decided to come back, COVID blocked my way.”

Reuters –

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