Number of Venezuelan migrants could double to eight million: OAS

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Some 5,000 Venezuelans leave their country each day, the Organization of American States (OAS) said in a report on Friday, and the number of migrants from the oil-producing country could double to 8 million by the end of 2020.

FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan migrants get on military trucks to get a free ride from the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border service to Tumbes, after processing their documents, on the outskirts of Tumbes, Peru June 15, 2019. Picture taken June 15, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Venezuela’s deep economic and political crisis has dominated the agenda at an OAS assembly taking place this week in Medellin, Colombia. Uruguay walked out of the session on Thursday in protest of the recognition of a delegation from Venezuela’s opposition.

The United Nations has estimated the number of Venezuelan migrants abroad is currently 4 million.

“This is the biggest migrant flow in the history of the region, currently the second-largest in the world - beaten by Syria, which has been at war for more than eight years,” report coordinator David Smolansky said during Friday’s assembly.

Some 1.3 million Venezuelans are currently living in Colombia, which has borne the brunt of the exodus. Some 850,000 migrants have settled in Peru and 263,000 in Ecuador.

In the last year, 101 Venezuelans have died while trying to flee their country, the report said.

Latin American countries have repeatedly urged the international community to increase aid to tackle migrants’ medical, housing and education needs.

Just 21% of $738 million in aid for Venezuelan migrants that was pledged by the international community for this year has actually been received, Colombia’s foreign minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, said.

Only $66 million of the $315 million pledged specifically to Colombia has arrived, Trujillo said.

“The answer to this global call is weaker and slower each time,” Trujillo said.

According to the report, the average Syrian refugee receives some $5,000 in aid, while the average Venezuelan migrant gets only $100 worth of help.

Venezuelans fleeing hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine have overwhelmed border areas in neighboring countries and sent regional countries scrambling to help them.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro says the country is the victim of an economic war led by the United States.

Many of the OAS’s 35 members recognize Maduro’s rival, opposition leader Juan Guaido, as the country’s leader. Guaido in January invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, decrying Maduro’s 2018 re-election as illegitimate.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Carlos Vargas; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Jonathan Oatis