Venezuelan migrant influx costs Colombia 0.5 percent of GDP: president

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BOGOTA (Reuters) - An influx of Venezuelan immigrants fleeing economic hardship costs Colombia approximately 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product per year, Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Friday, equivalent to some $1.5 billion.

Venezuelans have been pouring into countries across the region to escape food and medicine shortages and a deep economic crisis. Colombia, which shares a porous eastern border with the socialist-run country, has borne the burnt of the arrivals.

Nearly a million Venezuelan immigrants are living in Colombia, Duque said after a meeting with Jorge Familiar, the vice president of the World Bank.

“The fiscal impact that the migration crisis has could be about 0.5 percent of GDP, obviously we want to look at how that’s reflected in health, in education, in infrastructure, in lots of public assets,” said Duque.

The World Bank will release a report on the fiscal and social impact of the crisis on Colombia in the coming weeks, Familiar said.

“This is a regional issue and it requires a regional answer,” Familiar said. “We’ve created the report which will be presented in tandem with some agencies from the United Nations, those that deal with migration and refugee issues.”

Since 2015, more than 1.6 million Venezuelans have left their country, with 90 percent arriving in neighboring South American countries, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.

Affected countries have repeatedly asked for more aid to help them cope with migrants’ needs.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and other top officials of the ruling Socialist Party have dismissed those migration figures as stemming from politically motivated alarmism and “fake news” meant to justify foreign intervention in the country’s affairs.

Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Alistair Bell