Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis is on the verge of surpassing that of Syrian refugees, and could become the largest crisis in modern history within a few months, a research study from the Brookings Institution indicates.
The study, published December 9, makes the comparison: 4.6 million Venezuelans have abandoned their country to date, while in Syria the number reached 4.8 million in 2015. However, Syria’s refugee crisis is now contained, while that of Venezuela is on the rise.
Brookings anticipates that 6.5 million Venezuelans will live abroad by 2020, according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and that if the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela worsens, that number will reach 8 million.
The study highlights that the international community’s response has been limited in relation to the magnitude of the human displacement.
In response to the Syrian crisis, the international community mobilized large amounts of capital, reaching $7.4 billion in four years. For Venezuela, barely $580 million has been assigned in a similar time frame. According to the study, that represents a per capita expenditure of $1,500 for each Syrian refugee and $125 for each Venezuelan.
The document highlighted that, unlike other refugee crises, that of Venezuela is not the result of a war or a conventional conflict, but rather is due to the conditions Venezuelans face in their country every day, which are not unlike those of a war zone.
“The economic collapse, which preceded international sanctions, stands out because it wasn’t caused by external forces or internal disturbances: it was fabricated by those in power, and is, therefore, completely avoidable,” says the report.
Venezuela is becoming a failed state, if it isn’t one already. The lack of water and power have become the norm, and generalized violence, sometimes with the complicity of government security forces, make the country one of the world’s most violent, the document says.
The Brookings report states that Venezuelans who flee are refugees and deserve the protections associated with that condition, but until now, the weight of those responsibilities has fallen on regional neighbors, especially Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, which have received very little support from the international community when compared to other historic displacement situations.
To this day, those three countries continue to ask for more assistance to face the immigration wave.
This situation pushed some of the region’s countries to impose barriers on the entry of Venezuelans. That was the case for Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and more recently the Dominican Republic, which announced that it will require visas for immigrants from Venezuela.
The report says there are no simple solutions because the crisis is politically complex, prolonged, and involves more than 17 refugee-receiving nations, and therefore requires greater coordination between these nations and donors.
“The Venezuelan refugee crisis has reached a global scale. Therefore, it now requires that the response also be global,” concludes the Brookings report.