‘Mariel” every 4 days
By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- The latest figures from the Colombian government show that the rate at which Venezuelans are fleeing their country has accelerated to the tune of 30,000 migrants a day from some 5,000 in the days before embattled leader Nicolas Maduro ordered the border with Colombia closed four months ago.
That’s the Cuban “Mariel” boatlift every 4 days, although the exodus of 120,000-plus Cubans that took place from Cuba to Florida in 1980 took place over more than 5 months. And the surge comes just after the UNHCR warned that the exodus was going to accelerate.
The Venezuelans leaving their country now join more than 4 million already abroad, according to that United Nations agency for refugees. Germany’s DW television network reported Monday that the number of asylum seekers from Venezuela in the European Union jumped 121% in March, to 14,257, citing figures by the Funke Media Group.
Venezuelans seeking asylum are currently ranked in the second top position in the European Union, only behind those from Syria, whose migrants are still in the number one position with 20,392 of them seeking EU protection. Syria is closer to Europe and experiencing a fierce dictatorship and a civil war going on its seventh year. And the total number of applicants from Syria has actually decreased by 8%, according to the DW report.
The opposition-held National Assembly legislature has scheduled a debate tomorrow (Tuesday) on “the border crisis and its repercussions on the Venezuelan population.”
And even if Colombia is bearing the brunt of the exodus (1.2 million and counting, according to the UN), the effect of the crisis is already being felt outside of the Western Hemisphere.
While not at war, Venezuelans are fleeing hyperinflation (the Maduro government admitted to a 130,000%-plus inflation rate in 2018), a nascent humanitarian crisis marked by severe food and medicine shortages that has necessitated Red Cross intervention and an economy that has lost more than half its size in terms of Gross Domestic Product since 2013.
Street and political violence have also increased over the years and there is also a Constitutional crisis playing out with Maduro and National Assembly President both claiming the mantle of President.
Migrants were seen using both legal crossings into Colombia and the unlawful “trochas”, crossing trails that are often besieged by criminal gangs, meaning the figures for Venezuelan migrants could be much higher.