The Hike to Freedom—Venezuelan Migration

Source: Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Hungry, jobless, and unsheltered, millions of Venezuelans can no longer safely call their country home. With nothing but the clothes on their backs and each other, countless families have embarked on a journey to search for a better life and escape the violence and poverty that has engulfed Venezuela. But that raises the question — Where are these people going? And more importantly — are they getting the help they need?

The Journey

As of December 2021, over 6.05 Venezuelans have fled their homes. The vast majority are seeking shelter in nearby Latin American countries, particularly Columbia, Peru, and Chile. But how did they even get there? The shocking answer for most is: by foot. With no other option, Venezuelans are trekking hundreds and sometimes thousands of kilometers along the mountain roads that link their homes to Columbian cities bordering Venezuela, such as Cali and Bogotà. The journey is dangerous and exhausting and migrants go days without food or a place to rest. After endless hours of hiking, migrants must give up their cell phones or the few dollars they have to makeshift crossing agents in order to enter the country, and even after doing so, many still find themselves unable to escape deep poverty.

The Dangers

With the overflowing shelters that once lined the main migration routes closed due to the pandemic, most Venezuelans fleeing their country now receive practically zero aid along the way. But aside from lack of basic needs and medical care, another set of less obvious, hidden dangers are present for those making the brutal journey to freedom, especially for more vulnerable groups. For instance, women and girl migrants are especially at risk of becoming victims of rape or human trafficking. Families face the ever-looming prospect of being separated and their children being kidnapped along the dangerous routes. Additionally, with less regulation and bearing the scars that come with growing up amid extreme poverty and violence, teenage migrants are more likely to get involved in criminal activity and swept into a whole new set of dangers.

Consequences of the Crisis

With the skyrocketing number of Venezuelans fleeing their country, the largest Latin American refugee crisis in history has emerged — but what are the consequences? One of them may be a newfound xenophobia against migrants in countries such as Columbia that have taken them in by the millions. While they once reported being warmly welcomed near the start of the exodus, Venezuelans have recently reported feelings of hostility directed against them from both the government and average Columbians. Many Columbians believe they are to blame for the country’s increase in crime and COVID-19 cases, resulting in bitter feelings and unwelcoming attitudes.

However, one of the most dire consequences of this crisis is that an entire generation of Venezuelan children are growing up without proper education. Without education, these children will not have the knowledge and skills needed to sustain themselves and one day rebuild their broken country. Educating these children is not as easy as giving them a meal — it is a long-term investment of love and nurture that thankfully, many organizations have started. If you too would like to contribute to this cause, check out the link below. Every effort counts.

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The St.Marcellinus Social Justice League is a club dedicated to helping others, locally and globally. Our job is to promote social justice awareness through several activities. Of pf particular concern are issues that affect the most vulnerable groups in society.

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Anisha Ratnasekera

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