Rosa Vera, a 40-year-old from a small town in crisis-ridden Venezuela, thought moving to Colombia would give her the chance to find work. Instead, as coronavirus shut down economic life.
“I left Venezuela because the situation was so bad that I couldn’t feed my family,” Vera says. “I never thought that here I wouldn’t be able to feed myself. I can knock on doors but if there’s no work, what can I do?” Vera asks. “The dream is to get home and get a roof over my head.”
Venezuela is mired in economic and social ruin. Hyperinflation is rampant, rendering the currency, the bolivar, practically useless, while food shortages are a daily reality. More than 4 million Venezuelans have now left, with about 5,000 crossing into neighbouring Colombia each day at the end of last year, according to data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Nearly 2 million live in Colombia.
But now, with lockdown closing down businesses and keeping customers away, there is little work for Venezuelans. Unable to pay rent and evicted many migrants have camped outside a bus terminal on the northern outskirts of the city.
“The health risks for those in the camp were multiple: the cold, the dampness, the rain, all of this makes them more vulnerable to a respiratory disease,” says Marianne Menjivar, the International Rescue Committee’s representative in Colombia. “It really is an unfortunate situation and one that you don’t want any human being to be in during a pandemic.”
But for many at the camp, the pandemic is low on their list of concerns.
“Get me back to Caracas, then I’ll worry about getting sick,” says Vilmara Lopez.