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  • "We left (Venezuela) with the dream of working... but unfortunately they're sending us back," said Jesus Millan, 45, just after being deported. | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 January 2018

"We left (Venezuela) with the dream of working... but unfortunately they're sending us back," said Jesus Millan, 45, just after being deported.

As many as 900 Venezuelans are being deported from the border community of Cucuta, Colombia, where they have spent the past six months living in a makeshift refugee community on a sports field.

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Hundreds of Venezuelans seeking stability in Colombia were expelled Wednesday morning from their encampment on a soccer field, where they had been sheltering under cardboard boxes and simple tents since July.

On Monday night, locals began throwing molotov bombs at the makeshift camp, known locally as "Hotel Caracas." This was following a Sunday protest by locals against the Venezuelan immigrants.

"We left (Venezuela) with the dream of working... but unfortunately they're sending us back," said Jesus Millan, 45, just after being deported.

Mayor of Cucuta Cesar Rojas told local media: "We're not kicking them out; this is a public space. I have to advocate for the wellbeing of the Venezuelans sleeping here. I'm trying to prevent an accident here because people in this area are angry and I have to take action."

Oscar Gerardino, an official of Colombia's Norte de Santander provincial government, defended the mayor's decision: "We're not discriminating against anyone, but they're creating problems in residential areas."

Some of those deported told Reuters they would attempt to cross back into Colombia at the earliest opportunity.

Venezuela has been suffering record inflation and an international economic blockade spearheaded by the US government. Thousands have fled to neighboring Colombia and Ecuador over the past year.

"People come with the illusion of finding work in Cucuta to be able to feed their families," Rojas said. "The reality is we have some of the highest unemployment (in Colombia)... and that's why (Venezuelans) end up living on the streets."

Since June 2017, the influx of Venezuelans into Colombia has risen by 62 percent. By January there were more than 550,000 Venezuelans in the country, according to Colombian migration authorities.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said he's open to sending additional humanitarian aid to Colombia to help the country cope with the wave of immigrants.

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