Refugees International and Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) hosted a discussion on how the response to the ever-growing Venezuelan displacement crisis can be improved at the national, regional, and international level.
A Refugees International team traveled to Colombia to bear witness to the experience of displaced Venezuelans. But they quickly discovered that it is impossible to view the Venezuelan displacement crisis on its own when there are already 7.7 million internally displaced people in Colombia amid ongoing internal armed conflict.
On August 24, the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas – Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) came to a peace agreement after negotiations that lasted nearly five years. It is hoped that the peace deal will mark an end to some of the bloodshed from battles between the government, paramilitaries, and FARC guerrillas.
Many are heralding this as an historic moment for the South American nation, host to more than seven million of its own displaced citizens, making it the second-largest internal displacement crisis in the world after Syria. If and when the Colombian people vote “yes” on peace, Colombia’s humanitarian stakeholders should not let their enthusiasm obscure the continued challenges the country will face – challenges that could imperil the peace agreement’s viability at any time.
For years, Ecuador has been the destination for tens of thousands of Colombians seeking international protection. Fifty years after war broke out, an estimated 950 Colombians continue to cross the border into Ecuador each month, fleeing paramilitaries, guerilla groups, and organized gangs. Through its own refugee processing system, Ecuador has recognized roughly 60,500 Colombian refugees as of 2013 and hosts over 170,000 asylum seekers, 98 percent of whom are Colombian.