Concerns have sparked in recent days over the situation with Venezuela’s migrants and refugees following the spread of the coronavirus in Colombia.
Colombia currently hosts nearly 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees who have left their country in recent years. Last month, the country imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. Venezuela’s informal workers are forced to stay indoors like everyone else, but as they mostly sell on the streets, they are unable to pay rent and their food supplies are running out.
Venezuela has suffered an economic collapse under the leadership of Nicolas Maduro, whose legitimacy is not recognised by the international community. Last year, inflation hit 800,000%. Apart from a political crisis, the country has also been struggling with poverty, and food and medicine shortages.
The head of the UNHCR told the media that “almost 60% of the 1.77 million Venezuelans in Colombia have no regular status”. A different study, released in February, found that only 25% of Venezuelans in Colombia have a work contract. Analysts say that informal workers in Colombia are hardest hit by the quarantine. They must survive in the informal sector selling what they can in the streets and there are no buyers.
Last week, the Colombian government announced it would provide support for three million Colombian families who are in the “informal economy” during the period of quarantine, but there was no specific mention of help for Venezuelans.
Colombia has 1,161 confirmed cases and 19 deaths from the disease. Observers, however, fear the government will struggle to contain the spread of the virus, as health officials warned of a shortage of equipment and trained staff.