Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS)

Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants

Since 2015, more than 4 million Venezuelans have fled their country’s borders, making Venezuela the second largest source of displaced people after Syria. With the collapse of Venezuela’s economy and health system, 1.4 million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia. There are now an estimated 350,000 Venezuelan people residing in the Colombian border regions of Norte de Santander, Arauca, and La Guajira alone. As the crisis in Venezuela continues, thousands more cross the border every day in search of medical care and medicines. Many suffer from chronic conditions and need treatment that they can no longer access in Venezuela. The medical needs of Venezuelan migrants and refugees arriving in Colombia has overwhelmed the Colombian health system, which does not have the resources or personnel to attend to them. Due to the lack of access to basic and specialized health services, many Venezuelan migrants and refugees have not been able to receive the timely healthcare services that they need.

The United Nations defines the flow of people leaving Venezuela as a “mixed-flow” of migrants and asylum seekers, and has struggled to accurately categorize Venezuelans as refugees under international law. As a result, it is extremely difficult for displaced Venezuelans to find and be granted protected status in neighboring countries as well as in the Global North.

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