The Current

Colombia, other Latin American countries strained by flow of Venezuelan refugees, says filmmaker

As neighbouring countries deal with a "staggering" number of refugees from Venezuela, the worsening situation becomes the second-biggest migrant crisis in the world after Syria.

UN reported more than 4 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants have fled to neighbouring countries

Several South American countries have seen an influx of Venezuelan migrants, but none more so than Colombia. (Ariana Cubillos/Associated Press)

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A Canadian filmmaker living in Colombia says that Venezuela's neighbouring nations have become strained by welcoming the huge number of people coming across the border.

"You can kind of see some of the cracks that are occurring between not just Venezuelans but in terms of immigration in general with other groups also," said Femi Agbayewa.

"You see little comments here and there. I think there's been a question of: Are the people that are coming in — the Venezuelans coming in — taking away the resources from Colombians?" he said to The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

On Friday, UN aid agencies reported that more than four million Venezuelan refugees and migrants have fled economic and humanitarian crisis in their homeland, fleeing mainly to neighbouring Latin American countries.

Colombia is hosting the largest number of Venezuelan refugees, having taken in more than 1.3 million as of Friday.

Colombian Police members monitor the passage of people on the Simon Bolivar international bridge. (Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters)

Many of the refugees crossing the Colombian borders are at a "level of destitution," said Agbayewa.

He described meeting a 25-year-old woman this Saturday who made the 19-hour trek from Venezuela to Colombia in search of basic supplies.

"She was sitting in the dark for five days with her baby without food," he recalled.

The Current requested an interview with the Venezuelan consulate in Toronto but did not receive a response.

Agbayewa told Tremonti that many Venezuelan refugees have no desire to return home.

"A lot of people just don't want to go back. They're not sure what they're going back to. The Venezuela that they remember — they understand it doesn't exist," he said.

"The Venezuela of the future; they can't even think that far. It's just the present, day-to-day."

To examine the continuing crisis in Venezuela, Tremonti spoke to:

  • Femi Agbayewa, an independent filmmaker from Toronto who moved to Medellín, Colombia in 2018.
  • Kelly Clements, deputy high commissioner of the UN Refugee Agency.
  • Nicolas Saldias, researcher in the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Toronto.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation. 

With files from CBC News. Produced by Danielle Carr, Julianne Hazlewood and Ines Colabrese. 


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