A further 300,000 Venezuelans have fled the crisis-stricken socialist country during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic despite widespread restrictions on movement and travel, according to a report from the Human Rights Center of the Andrés Bello Catholic University.
The findings are based on research from the organization Refugees and Migrants of Venezuela. The group has documented 5.5 million cases of people fleeing the country amid its economic and humanitarian crisis, up from just over five million before the pandemic started.
“ATTENTION: The latest findings from the Refugees for Venezuela platform found that the number of Venezuelans who have fled the country has reached 5.5 million, meaning almost 300,000 people have left the country during the pandemic and the closure of borders,” the university said in a Twitter announcement.
Los últimos registros de la Plataforma R4V indican que la cantidad de venezolanos que han huido del país alcanzó los 5,5 millones, lo que supone que casi 300 mil personas han abandonado el país en plena pandemia y con fronteras cerradas#ConLosRefugiados#NoSonMigrantes pic.twitter.com/bBfeDUQl0R
— Centro DDHH UCAB (@CDH_UCAB) October 13, 2020
As neighboring Colombia and Brazil both closed their borders, migrants would have been forced to make multiple illegal crossings, often in risky conditions, to arrive at their desired destination.
The report admits the limitations of such research, which is largely based on data provided by the governments of host countries. The real figure is likely to be higher.
“This does not necessarily imply individual identification or registration of each individual, and includes a degree of estimation, according to the statistical data processing methodology used by each government,” the report noted on its website. “As many of the government sources do not take into account Venezuelans without regular immigration status, the total number is likely to be higher.”
Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime imposed strict lockdown measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, thus exacerbating the already devastating economic and humanitarian crisis inflicting the country. With normal life all but impossible for most people on salaries of just a couple of dollars a month, the lack of work opportunities during the quarantine meant even those with better-paid jobs were unable to provide any source of income for their families.
The Venezuelan exodus has become one of the most pressing migration crises worldwide, with the number of people fleeing the country surpassing that of the Syrian Civil War. An analysis from the Organization of American States (OAS) in late 2018 estimated that up to 10 million people could flee the country by the end of 2024, representing over a third of its population.
Those returning to the country are also facing abusive treatment and amplified risk of coronavirus transmission, according to Human Rights Watch. The NGO reports that many of the around 130,000 citizens have been forced into “overcrowded and unsanitary quarantine centers … with little access to food, water, or medical care.” Those who protested against the conditions were threatened with arrest.