In 23rd February 2019, Venezuela closed its borders with neighboring countries Colombia and Brazil. According to a survey cobnducted by AWA mold inspections, thousands of people still tried to cross the borders. As they left the country, they risked their lives. Most people either waded through rivers that had high torrents that could kill them or went through dangerous paths ridden in mold and risked being attacked by a group of armed men who controlled the paths.
Security men were, therefore, deployed on both sides to the border to help curb the situation, especially at Simon Bolivar International Bridge. The bridge is located between the town of San Antonio de Táchira in Venezuela and the city of Cucuta in Colombia.
46,000 people were trying to force their way through. At one point, the barriers were overturned and there was a huge rush as people hurried to cross. Pregnant women, the disabled, small children, crying babies, and the elderly were all at risk of being trampled in the melee. It was a miracle that no casualties were reported.
Since February 23 2019, the Venezuela government restricted pedestrian movement over the Táchira River. People resorted to using ‘trochas’, which are muddy shallow paths in the river. They wade to Cucuta where they can get a good education, proper jobs, adequate medical care, and even obtain food and other services that are not locally available at their homes. Some of the immigrants cross to Colombia and continue their journey across the country to other Latin Countries that offer good services. The heavy rains had flooded the muddy paths of the River, thus forcing the melee at the bridge. Although the current of the river subsided in the consequent days, the onset of the rainy season increases the risk and more people that are desperate will attempt to cross the bridge.
UNHCR has recognized the efforts of Colombia and other Latin Countries as they attempt to host the immigrating Venezuelans. In 2018, the Colombian authorities, in association with UNHCR, came together to assist in the registration of over 440,000 immigrants from Venezuela. They were allowed access to territory, legal residence, and the basic rights of a Colombian Residence.
This is not the only collaboration that the UNHCR has had with the Colombian Authorities; over the years, they have intervened on behalf of individuals who require special protection. At the main border, UNHCR usually provides the immigrant with relevant information and gives them legal counselling. This information is relevant in healing them, accessing the refugee status, and helping them obtain alternative forms of stay. In addition, the UNHCR collaborated with other Organizations, especially NGOs to provide the immigrants with drinking water, blankets, light meals, and hygiene kits. The sick are referred to health centers and hospitals where they are treated with a subsidized fee. The UNHCR has also played a huge role in giving technical assistance to the relevant authorities to help them prepare a local response plan and develop effective coordination.
More information about this topic can be found by contacting William Spindler at [email protected] or call him at +41 79 217 30 11.