Colombia hosts the largest number of Venezuelans outside Venezuela. According to the World Food Programme, there are some 1.8 million Venezuelans residing in Colombia and another 500,000 are expected to arrive in the coming months. By 2020, according to UNHCR, Colombia had 957 refugees, 19,933 asylum seekers, 8,252,788 internally displaced persons, and 1,729,537 Venezuelans “displaced abroad.”
In March 2022, UNHCR and IOM reported that many migrants, including a growing number of Venezuelans, were resorting to dangerous crossings through the jungles of the Darien Gap, separating Colombia from Panama. Panamanian authorities report that the number of Venezuelans crossing the Darien Gap in the first two months of 2022 (some 2,500 people), almost reached the entire total for 2021 (2,819 people). In 2021, approximately 133,000 people crossed the Darien, the majority of whom were Haitians, followed by Cubans, Venezuelans, and then “extracontinentales” from Angola, Bangladesh and other countries. UNHCR and IOM provide temporary shelters as well as mattresses, blankets, solar lamps, and hygiene kits.
Despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the United States continued conducting deportation operations to Colombia. Deportations appear to have picked up recently. In March 2022, the Department of Homeland Security began a wave of expulsions to Colombia in response to an influx of Colombians in February, when some 9,600 migrants were taken into custody along the U.S. southern border. Many Colombian migrants fly to Mexico and then attempt to enter the U.S. irregularly through Yuma, Arizona, where around 73 percent of the Colombians arrested in February were processed.
- UNHCR, “Refugee Data Finder: Colombia,” accessed on 11 April 2022, https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/download/?url=qwUT94
- World Food Programme, “WFP Colombia Country Brief, February 2022,” 4 April 2022, https://reliefweb.int/report/colombia/wfp-colombia-country-brief-february-2022
- UNHCR, “Number of Venezuelans Crossing the Darien Gap Soars,” 29 March 2022, https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2022/3/6243298f4/number-venezuelans-crossing-darien-gap-soars.html
- C. Montoya-Galvez, “U.S. Launches Deportation Operation to Colombia Using Title 42 Border Rule,” CBS News, 24 March 2022, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/immigration-title-42-colombia-deportations-us-mexico-border/
- Al-Jazeera, “Migrants Stranded in Northern Colombia Struggling to Survive,” 7 August 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/7/migrants-stranded-in-northern-colombia-struggling-to-survive
- A. Mohammed, J. Symmes & C. F. J. Daniel, “Two Dozen People Deported to Colombia on U.S. Flight Found to Have Coronavirus: Sources,” Reuters, 29 April 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-colombia-idUSKBN22B3DB
- A Group of Refugees and Migrants Walks Towards the Village of Canaan in south Panama After Crossing the Darien Gap (Nicolo Filippo Rosso, UNHCR, “Number of Venezuelans Crossing the Darien Gap Soars,” 29 March 2022, https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2022/3/6243298f4/number-venezuelans-crossing-darien-gap-soars.html)