Four million Venezuelan refugees and migrants have fled an economic and political crisis in their homeland since the end of 2015, UN aid agencies said on Friday.
“The alarming figure highlights the urgent need to support host countries, mainly in Latin America, led by Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina,’’ the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said in a joint statement issued in Geneva.
UN agencies said one million people have left Venezuela since November as the exodus from the crisis-hit South American country has continued to skyrocket.
The latest increase has brought the total number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees abroad to four million, up from 695,000 in late 2015, when the opposition’s election victory set the stage for intensifying conflict with President Nicolas Maduro.
According to the UNHCR and the IOM, Colombia is the main destination, hosting 1.3 million Venezuelans, followed by Peru with 768,000.
Chile, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina host hundreds of thousands, while Central American and Caribbean states have also taken in significant amounts of people from Venezuela.
“Latin American and Caribbean countries are doing their part to respond to this unprecedented crisis,’’ Eduardo Stein, the UN Refugee and Migration Manager for Venezuela, said.
According to Stein, they cannot be expected to continue doing it without international help.
A crisis plan to help 2.2 million exiled Venezuelans, as well as their host communities, was launched in late 2018.
So far, only 21 per cent of the needed 738 million dollars has been funded by donor countries.
Venezuela has experienced a massive economic and political crisis under Maduro, who won a second term in an election boycotted by most of the opposition a year ago.
The dire situation has pushed Venezuelans to leave the country amid hyperinflation and goods shortages.