Sunday 20 June 2021

‘Cages are more dignified’: Colombia brings cold comfort for Venezuelans

The feet of Estilita López, 78 years old, are bloodied and bruised from the arduous journey from Yaracuy, in northern Venezuela, to Bogotá, the Colombian capital. Together with 460 fellow compatriots, she now lives in a new, city-funded migrant camp that has just sprung up on a football pitch near the airport.

The camp for Venezuelan migrants installed by the Colombian government in Bogotá. Photograph: Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters

“I had to leave Venezuela, but this is all there is for us here,” says López, taking shelter from the beating sun in the yellow tent she shares with her daughter and grandchildren as clothes soaked by an earlier downpour dry out on the grass nearby. “We’re waiting to eat something, and I need to see a doctor about my feet.”

Oil-rich Venezuela is mired in economic and political turmoil, with rampant shortages in staple foods and basic medicines. Hyperinflation has rendered the currency practically worthless, and crime is widespread. The dire situation has triggered an exodus of Venezuelans, arguably the largest mass migration in Latin America’s history.

- Advertisement -

Three million have now fled Venezuela, with more than a million in neighboring Colombia, where opportunities are scarce according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. City officials estimate that more than 250,000 Venezuelans are living in Bogotá.

‘We’re waiting to eat, and I need to see a doctor’: Estilita López, 78. Photograph: Joe Parkin Daniels for the Guardian

Just a few blocks from the bus terminal, where many people arrive with only what they can carry, roughly 300 refugees and migrants had established a shantytown overlooking a sewage-strewn canal.

Concerned by reports of crime and disease outbreaks, the authorities shut down that camp and opened the new one, where López now sleeps, on Tuesday. “I lived in the old camp for two weeks,” she says. “I was getting more sick every day there, it was disgusting.”

A Venezuelan migrant family inside a tent full of cots at the new camp in Bogotá. Photograph: Fernando Vergara/AP

Despite better conditions in the new camp, which has showers, portable toilets, and visiting doctors, the field floods during downpours. With the rainy season approaching, some worry about about the health of the refugees.

- Advertisement -

“It’ll turn into a quagmire when the rains come,” says Ricardo Moscoso, who lives in an upmarket apartment building overlooking the camp. “There’s no heating and no real sanitation there … there are cages that are more dignified than this.”

María Gabriela Ruiz, 22, fled Venezuela last year with her boyfriend and had been living in an apartment while working odd jobs across the city. Now, seven months pregnant and unable to find work, she lives in the camp.

“I don’t feel like a refugee, I feel more like a prisoner,” she says as a group of boisterous teenagers play tag around her. “We have to wait to be given food, and sometimes it doesn’t even arrive … last night, I went to bed hungry.”

The camp is not accepting new arrivals, leading many homeless Venezuelans to beg officials at the gate to bring them some food.

Despite the hardship, camp residents say it is still better than what they left behind in Venezuela.

“There’s no food on the shelves back home, at least here we have food and water,” says Jesus Rafael Brazón, 45, who fled Monagas, in eastern Venezuela, three months ago with 14 members of his family. He too made much of the journey on foot. “In Venezuela I started working as a taxi driver, but now there aren’t even the parts available for repairs.”

- Advertisement -

Brazon, though grateful for the reception he has received in the camp, says he is desperately seeking the right to work. “It’s the only thing that will really help us,” he says. “We need to be able to work, to support ourselves.”

A Venezuelan couple read a flyer about vaccination in the camp’s registration area. Photograph: Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters

Enrique Peñalosa, Bogotá’s mayor, has called on the government to nationalise Venezuelans.

“It would be a huge help, not just from a humanitarian point of view but also an economic one,” says Cristina Vélez Valencia, Bogotá’s secretary for social integration. “Many of the people arriving are young people, so it would be a huge demographic boost to have them in the workforce.”

Vélez added that the plan is to shut the camp down in January, though what happens after that remains uncertain. “We’re looking at other options,” she says, adding that more permanent refuges for short-term residents are being set up in buildings across the city. “What we don’t want is to keep opening more and more camps.”

A toddler walks inside the camp in Bogotá. Photograph: Raúl Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images

Source: The Guardian

Article originally appeared on Today Colombia and is republished here with permission.

- Advertisement -

FACT CHECK:
We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

Q24N
Q24N is an aggregator of news for Latin America. Reports from Mexico to the tip of Chile and Caribbean are sourced for our readers to find all their Latin America news in one place.

Related Articles

Ortega government accuses imprisoned opponents of receiving money from the United States to overthrow him

TODAY NICARAGUA – The Nicaraguan government assures that the imprisoned political...

The US sanctions Nicaraguan Daniel Ortega’s daughter and close associates

TODAY NICARAGUA – The United States imposed economic sanctions on four...

MOST READ

Immigration system failure affected passengers at the San Jose airport Monday

QCOSTARICA -  In yet another system-wide failure in the immigration check-out, passengers looking to leave Costa Rica Monday morning by way of the Juan...

OIJ investigation into road works corruption leads to inquiries in Panama

QCOSTARICA - The prestige of the company of some of the richest men in Costa Rica hangs by a thread. For many, the MECO...

College of Physicians negotiates donation of a million and a half vaccines against covid-19

QCOSTARICA - This week there could be very good news for the country in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic if the College of...

The “rebound” effect boosted growth in Costa Rica’s economic activity

QCOSTARICA - Costa Rica's economic activity registered in April 2021 a year-on-year growth of 8.8%, a figure affected by a “base” or “rebound” effect,...

Today’s Vehicle Restriction June 17: 7 & 8 CANNOT circulate

Today, Thursday, June 17, vehicles with plates ending 7 & 8 CANNOT circulate The measure is countrywide and applied between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm,...

Vaccination commission endorses J & J vaccine, says no to Sinovac

QCOSTARICA - The Comisión Nacional de Vacunación y Epidemiología (CNVE)  - National Vaccination and Epidemiology Commission - endorsed the use of Johnson and Johnson...

Today’s Vehicle Restriction June 15: 3 & 4 CANNOT circulate

Today, Tuesday, June 15, vehicles with plates ending 3 & 4 CANNOT circulate The measure is countrywide and applied between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm,...

Companies covered up defective asphalt

QCOSTARICA - The judicial file of the Cochinilla Case, on alleged corruption in road works, exposes how three companies would have covered up the...

Today’s Vehicle Restriction June 16: 5 & 6 CANNOT circulate

Today, Wednesday, June 16, vehicles with plates ending 5 & 6 CANNOT circulate The measure is countrywide and applied between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm,...

WANT TO STAY UP TO DATE WITH THE LATEST!

Get our daily newsletter with the latest posts directly in your mailbox. Click on the subscribe and fill out the form. It's that simple!

Article originally appeared on Today Colombia and is republished here with permission.

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.