UN opens first reception center for Venezuelans in Colombia

March 8, 2019 GMT

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. refugee agency says it is opening its first reception center in Colombia to support people leaving neighboring Venezuela.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says the center set up along with Colombian authorities in the border city of Maicao opens Friday and can initially take in up to 350 people. He said it “has the possibility to grow” in the future.

The Geneva-based agency said Friday that hundreds of people including children, the elderly and those with medical conditions are “forced to live on the streets” because of a lack of shelter in Maicao.

UNHCR says 2.7 million Venezuelans have left their crisis-ridden country since 2015, and Colombia is the country most-affected by the outflow, with more than 1.1 million.

The agency said humanitarian needs have “overwhelmed” Colombia’s reception capacity.