16 expelled after clash at Venezuelan migrant camp in Bogota

November 20, 2018 GMT

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Sixteen people have been expelled from a camp built for homeless Venezuelan migrants following a violent protest over food rations, Colombia officials said Monday.

Officials in Colombia’s capital said that a group of migrants in the camp looted supplies, destroyed tents and attacked police at the site, which houses 470 Venezuelans.

Colombian immigration director Christian Kruger said that 15 migrants were arrested after clashing with police and would be deported to Venezuela on Monday night. A minor who was also arrested during the protest will be turned over to Colombia’s child welfare institute.

“The idea behind this humanitarian camp has been to improve the living conditions of these people and help them to recover their dignity,” Kruger said. “But they are mistaken if they think we are going to allow actions that threaten the safety of Colombian people, or of the Venezuelans living in the camp.”

Migrants have said they are frustrated with food distribution and rules that forbid cooking. The camp is run by Bogota’s municipal government, which is handing out canned foods to migrants three times per day and has asked community groups not to bring additional food to the site.

Bogota’s head of social integration, Cristina Velez, said the city will reinforce security around the camp while continuing to serve the most vulnerable.

The camp is the first of its kind in Colombia. It was built last week to accommodate migrants who had previously been living in tents made of plastic sheets and scrap materials outside the city’s bus terminal.

More than 1 million Venezuelans have moved to Colombia to escape hyperinflation and food shortages at home.