Geneva/Panama, 21 March 2018– Aid workers working along the Colombia-Venezuela border are warning of rising vulnerabilities among people crossing the border and are calling on the international community to increase support for humanitarian efforts.
An estimated 796,000 people entered Colombia from Venezuela through official migration points in 2017. The volume of people on the move has already triggered regional repercussions, with many people now crossing from Colombia into Ecuador and Brazil, and from there to countries further south including Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
“We are increasingly concerned about this situation, and we believe that additional, urgent action needs to be taken to ensure that people can access basic services and support,” said Walter Cotte, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Regional Director for the Americas.
“The sheer volume of people crossing the border has created a complex situation that requires immediate action. The Colombian Red Cross Society and IFRC have been working for more than a year to support people arriving in Colombia and travelling through the country. But we need to do more, and we are appealing to partners to invest in our operations,” said Mr Cotte.
Between 2,000 and 10,000 people are estimated to be on the move within Colombia every day, with the country being used as a transit area, supply point, or a place of temporary or long-term shelter. These figures do not include people using informal border crossings along the Colombia-Venezuela border. This is a major concern as these crossings are typically in areas where non-state armed groups are present.
The movement of people across the border is complex: some people are entering and leaving Colombia for specific purposes; some are migrating to other countries, and others are seeking a permanent home in Colombia. However, all should be able to access basic services, and should be protected from harm or harassment on their journeys, without any distinction.
This situation is generating significant humanitarian needs in transit zones, places of temporary settlement or host cities in Colombia, especially along the Colombia-Venezuela and Colombia-Ecuador borders.
IFRC and the Colombia Red Cross have launched an international emergency appeal for 2.2 million Swiss francs, with the aim of providing expanded support to about 120,000 of the most vulnerable people who have crossed from Venezuela. The Red Cross aims to provide a range of basic services, including health care, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, cash transfer programming and livelihoods support.
In 2017, the Colombian Red Cross assisted more than 300,000 people. Their actions received financial backing from IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).
“No one organization, agency or government can address this issue alone,” said Mr Cotte. “Authorities must work closely with national humanitarian actors and other partners to coordinate and strengthen the humanitarian assistance available to people in need, and ensure they are treated with dignity and respect.”