AP NEWS

Norwegian Refugee Council chief urges Venezuela exodus aid

March 10, 2020 GMT

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council said Tuesday that the world is not doing enough to help Colombia respond to the influx of migrants from neighboring Venezuela.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the humanitarian group, told The Associated Press that he is concerned about a dangerous mix of escalating violence within Colombia combined with the arrival of thousands of migrants fleeing precarious economic conditions in Venezuela.

“The crisis is tremendous, it’s overwhelming,” he said during a visit to the border dividing Colombia and Venezuela. “The humanitarian groups are overstretched and underfunded and so are all of the government institutions.”

Over 4.5 million Venezuelans have fled their nation’s economic and humanitarian crisis in recent years, with nearly 2 million arriving in neighboring Colombia, which is struggling to provide them jobs, shelter, healthcare and social services.

Egeland urged the international community to step up in providing more aid while praising Colombia for hosting so many in need.

On another issues, he said Colombia needs to revitalize its peace process, increasing the amount spent on development and humanitarian aid in parts of the country still torn by conflict.

Colombia’s government signed a peace accord with leftist rebels in 2016, ending Latin America’s longest-running conflict. But many parts of the nation once run by rebels are now dominated by other illegal armed groups.

Egelund said those factors also put vulnerable Venezuelans who continue to arrive at risk.

“We’re trying desperately in this age of coronavirus to tell the world that it hasn’t gotten better,” he said.