Rising violence and a tense political situation in Venezuela have sparked a closure of the border with Colombia. Thousands of Colombian refugees have been deported. As part of our Colombia response, NRC helps the region's refugees access their rights.
Humanitarian and political background
Five decades of violence have transformed the conflict in Colombia into the worst humanitarian crisis in the Americas. Violence between armed groups, drug traffickers, and government forces has displaced 6.6 million people since the conflict began.
According to UNHCR, 370,000 Colombian refugees live in neighbouring countries, including Venezuela. Here, many struggle to be recognised as refugees, and are thus barred from claiming their rights.
To read more about the conflict in Colombia, please visit Our Country Programme in Colombia page.
Violence and deportations
In recent years, the political situation in Venezuela has worsened. Oil prices dropped. Food shortages and crime shot up.
In 2015, the deadliest place in the world was Venezuela's capital. A city of 3.3 million, Caracas reported 3,946 murders in 2015.
The tense political situation has affected Colombian refugees in the country. In August 2015, President Maduro declared a state of emergency and closed the border. Security sweeps followed in Colombian-populated neighbourhoods, resulting in the deportation of thousands.
The deported Colombians return to an unsafe situation. With normal border crossings closed, thousands have crossed the Táchira River back into Colombia.
NRC in Venezuela
In 2010, we began a Regional Refugee Programme providing information and legal advice to Colombian refugees in Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador.
To protect Colombian refugees in Venezuela, we provide them with legal assistance and counselling. We also help them receive official recognition as refugees (refugee status determination) from the Venezuelan and Colombian governments.
We run our activities out of our offices in San Cristóbal and Mérida, Venezuela, and the Colombian border town Cúcuta.
Regional Refugee Programme
We assist vulnerable people in gaining refugee status and other forms of international protection. In Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama, we help refugees exercise their housing, land and property rights.
Our regional refugee programme aims to:
- Provide information and legal assistance to asylum seekers, refugees and people in need of international protection.
- Accompany recently arrived refugees to reach refugee commissions.
- Provide legal advice and assistance on housing, land and property rights.
- Ensure that asylum seekers, refugees and other vulnerable people can access the Colombian victims' registry and the reparation measures outlined in the victims' law.
- Give technical support to authorities, to increase their capacity in reaching vulnerable people.
- Overcome legal barriers that keep displaced people from accessing basic rights.
- Inform and empower individuals and communities on long-lasting solutions.