Thousands flee Venezuela in the hopes of reaching Peru before the new passport restriction occurs. In the midst of an economic crisis worse than the Great Depression, the UN has categorically place this exodus near a crisis point. Michael Shifter, president of Inter-American Dialogue, discusses with CGTN’s Wang Guan the extent of this crisis, its implications at the international scale, and the measures that others can take to help.
Comments by Michael Shifter:
“Latin America has never seen anything like this; both in scale and dimension. There are reportedly 2 million on the lower end but probably closer to 2.3 million Venezuelans that have fled over the last several years, and especially over the last year. The crisis is accelerating: more and more Venezuelans are leaving and no one expects it to stop because no one expects the improvement of their situation in Venezuela. These countries are overwhelmed.”
“Many Venezuelans are also going to small Caribbean countries that are even less equipped than Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador to deal with this crisis. It’s a huge crisis, very profound, and it’s growing.”
“I think this is why we need a coordinated regional response, an international response. I think the meeting in Bogota is promising, it’s an opportunity to sit down – a little bit overdue – but it’s promising, at least it’s a step in the right direction to sit down and try to coordinate, harmonize policies, and try to share the burden on very weak states that have few resources and have no capacity to handle these kinds of incoming refugees. They didn’t have anything like this before, this is entirely new. Europe was better equipped and better prepared in 2015 to deal with the Syrian crisis and the refugees coming from there. This is very serious and it’s really important that all the countries work together because virtually every country is affected: Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, all those mentioned in. So there needs to be a coordinated response.”
“The response [of international institutions] has not been adequate to the depth of the crisis. There needs to be a lot more resources. There needs to be more capacity to process migrants as they come in. I think the UN could help with that. [The United Nations Refugee Program] has a lot of experience. Latin America doesn’t have this experience. This is new. This is unique, it’s very serious, and it’s only going to get worse.”
“It’s impossible [to come back]. Clearly, these migrants are suffering on the border towns of all these countries. They have no jobs, no other opportunities but it’s preferable than to live in Venezuela where they were going hungry and there’s absolute scarcity of basic food. They want to survive. It’s come down to survival, to self-preservation; there’s little reason why they should go back to Venezuela. If they want to, they’ll have to make their life somewhere else. Hopefully, the situation will get better in Venezuela but I don’t think so in the short term.”