Colombians Come to Venezuela in Droves

It is estimated that by the end of 2009, 301 Colombians will be entering the country daily. The migration from the neighbouring country is no longer the same as that experienced in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, when one person per family group migrated. Colombian families are now collectively mobilizing to Venezuela.

It is estimated that by the end of 2009, 301 Colombians will be entering the country daily. The migration from the neighbouring country is no longer the same as that experienced in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, when one person per family group migrated.

Colombian families are now collectively mobilizing to Venezuela in search of the realization of a quality of life that is impossible for them to find in their home country, given the economic conditions in which they are forced to live as a result of the armed conflict. [1]

The second study of human migration of Colombians to Venezuela, conducted between August 2007 and October 2008 indicates that 67% of Colombian citizens who have arrived in the country have done so in the company of their partners and / or families. In addition, 17% of them came to the country because they had family here.

“This means that the reasons for mobility are no longer solely those of one person or a family member, but entire families. Whole families are coming,” says Juan Carlos Tanus, executive director of Colombians in Venezuela, the organization that conducted the study.

Of these families, 74% of them have children, 67% of which were born in Colombia.

According to figures divulged by the investigation, conducted in 16 states with a sample of 136,600 Colombians, people arrive in bulk because it is cheaper to live in Venezuela.

The reasons for the migration of 75% of those citizens are overwhelmingly economic.

According to Tanus, “the war consumes the entire budget (of Colombia) and people have to go find other means of life in other countries. Seventy-five % moved for economic reasons, but basically these reasons are a product of the development of the war, of the social conflict, because some of those 136,600 people are heads of families who come from areas where the Colombian armed conflict has unfolded.”

Quality of life

In the view of Colombians in Venezuela, their countrymen find in our country opportunities to achieve life goals, plus access to social programs such as medical and food assistance.

“People come with the idea that there is work here, that you can develop a life plan,” said the director of the organization. 

The report indicates that a large minority of Colombian migrants (44%) have an average monthly income of Bs 1,600 (US$ 744 comprised of the minimum wage and cestatickets), a product of their work in private institutions (businesses and households).

That amount of money, according Tanus, is enough for them to live on. “It’s much cheaper to live as a Colombian immigrant than an ordinary citizen in Colombia,” he reiterated.

Although he clarified that income, or that earned on average by those engaged in informal activities (23%) or those who are self-employed (22%), – which reaches up to Bs 6,000 (US$2790) – does not guarantee high living standards.

However, social programs offset some shortcomings.

According to the second migration study, 67% of Colombian migrants are high school graduates whose demand for higher education can not be covered by the public university system in their own country. However, in Venezuela it’s easier.

For a person to complete an undergraduate degree in Colombia, three family members must work to afford college. Meanwhile, in Venezuela there are about 11,700 Colombians linked to processes of higher education through Mission Sucre. [2]

Mission Ribas [3] also allows participation of migrants and also allows assistance for those who do not have Venezuelans identity documents to be regularized. Similarly, 84.5% of the children access primary education even though 65% of them are found to be living in irregular situations.

Among the social programs, Mercal and Barrio Adentro [4] are the best known policies and which the majority of Colombians access to meet their needs.

Residual xenophobia

Despite the 4.5 million Colombians that are now in the country, the product of a migration process of more than five decades, “there is still xenophobia in Venezuela,” Tanus said.

Y es que 89% de la población colombiana migrante no participa en las organizaciones comunitarias, bien sean de tipo social, deportivo o cultural, lo cual afecta la visibilidad del migrante en la comunidad donde vive.

Also 89% of the Colombian immigrant population do not participate in community organizations, whether social, sporting or cultural, which affects the visibility of migrants in the community where they live.

For Tanus, it is essential that Colombians become involved in their community through active participation to overcome this residual xenophobia.

To do this, he thinks participation in social initiatives is necessary as part of the processes of legalisation.

“We can not stabilize the community unless it participates. The community cannot support you if you’re not studying, if you don’t participate in the sports committee or in the committee of your apartment block” he emphasized.

Colombians in Venezuela say that participatory processes, independent of the ideological and political behaviour of the migrant citizen, are now beginning to take place throughout the country, which should be taken advantage of to promote integration and breakdown xenophobia.

Migrant Services

The Colombian population in Venezuela has five offices that care for migrants in the states of Monagas, Carabobo, Yaracuy, Barinas and Cojedes, aimed at providing guidance and assistance.

According Tanus, this is one of the greatest achievements of the studies conducted in the country and is a policy that comes from the institutions.

The figures of the second study of human migration show that our country continues mitigating the impact of the armed conflict in Colombia.

“The first country to perceive the effects of war directly and to generate policies to mitigate this effect is Venezuela,” Tanus said.

“Under what conditions would we be if we were not in Venezuela? Under what conditions would a million and a half Colombians, who have migrated in the last 15 years, be living? In the midst of war,” he concluded.

Translators Notes

[1] Colombia’s 45 year civil war between the state & paramilitary groups on the one hand and leftist guerrilla groups such as the FARC & the ELN.

[2] Mission Sucre – government social program that provides free university level education

[3]Mission Ribas – government social program that provides free high school level education for adults who have not completed high school.

[4] Mission’s Mercal & Barrio Adentro – government social programs that provide subsidised food and free healthcare, respectively.

Translated by Kiraz Janicke for Venezuelanalysis.com