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UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie speaks with children who fled Venezuela, in Brisas del Norte, an informal settlement in Riohacha, Colombia, on June 7, 2019. The informal settlement is inhabited by Colombian refugees who have returned to their country as well as Venezuelans escaping a political and economic crisis back home.
© Andrew McConnell/UNHCR
Citizenship

Angelina Jolie Urges Aid and Compassion for Migrants Fleeing Venezuela

Why Global Citizens Should Care
As Venezuela battles the worst humanitarian crisis in its history, neighboring South American countries are stepping up to aid migrants by providing housing, food, and health care. But in order to keep up this support, more humanitarian aid funding is needed. You can join us in taking action on this issue and supporting the UN Global Goals here.

Angelina Jolie called on the international community to provide support to three South American countries — Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia — that are helping to house and provide assistance to many of the Venezuelan migrants fleeing their crisis-hit country on Saturday.

“The situation here in Colombia, and in Peru and Ecuador, puts the debate and rhetoric on refugee issues in many peaceful countries, including my own, into humbling context,” Jolie said at a press conference in Maicao, Colombia.

The actress was in Colombia to visit with refugees as part of her duties as Jolie, a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Approximately 4 million people are estimated to have fled Venezuela — more than a million to Colombia — in recent years in what is now one of the fastest-growing refugee crises in the world.

Angelina-Jolie-Venezuela-Refugees-001.jpgUNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meets with Ester Barboza, 17, who has been blind since age three and fled Venezuela with her family due to lack of medical care, in Riohacha, Colombia.
Image: © Andrew McConnell/UNHCR

“This is a life and death situation for millions of Venezuelans,” Jolie said. “But UNHCR has received only a fraction of the funds it needs, to do even the bare minimum to help them survive.”

She praised the Colombian government for helping migrants seeking refuge and assistance in the country, while underscoring the need for the international community to support these efforts.

“It is extraordinary that a country facing so many huge challenges of its own, has shown such humanity and is making these live-saving efforts. I want to acknowledge the bravery, strength and resilience of the Colombian people,” she said.

“Looking across the world, it seems that often those who have the least give the most.”

Jolie noted that citizens aren’t the only ones fleeing Venezuela. The actress and humanitarian said she was surprised to meet Colombians who had been displaced to Venezuela by previous conflict and were now returning to their home country, this time displaced by the crisis in Venezuela.

Angelina-Jolie-Venezuela-Refugees-002.jpgUNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie speaks with Yoryanis Ojeda, 35, a former Colombian refugee who returned from Venezuela when she could no longer get food and medicine for her children.
Image: © Andrew McConnell/UNHCR

“In addition, 3.3 million Venezuelan nationals are crossing the border for short periods of time, to find supplies and basic assistance. The impact on public services here in Colombia is staggering,” Jolie said in a statement.

Venezuela’s economic and political crises have driven most of its residents — nearly 90% — into poverty. The country’s inflation rate has jumped to an all-time-high of 10,000,000% this year, causing the prices of basic good and services to skyrocket, leading to dangerous levels of food insecurity.

According to a recent UN report, approximately 3.7 million Venezuelans are undernourished. The healthcare system has been crippled in a similar fashion by hyperinflation, with 85% pharmacies suffering medicine shortages.

Read More: 'Education Is a Key': Angelina Jolie Pens Heartfelt Op-Ed on Refugee Children

Despite the chaos in his country, President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly refused aid. The future of the country is uncertain as Maduro, whose presidency is being contested by self-declared interim president and opposition leader Juan Guaido, refuses to back down.

The humanitarian crisis in the country has only worsened since the United States imposed sanctions on Venezuela state-owned oil company in a show of support for Guaido.

Parents of Venezuelan children born abroad are also increasingly facing difficulties registering their children’s births due to the shrinking number of Venezuelan consulates and lack of crucial documentation.

Colombia currently houses the largest number of Venezuelan migrants displaced by the crisis. And aid agencies in Colombia are struggling to provide housing, food, and healthcare to the steadily increasing number of migrants.

Angelina-Jolie-Venezuela-Refugees-003.jpgUNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meets with children who fled Venezuela, at the Integrated Assistance Centre, in Maicao, Colombia, on June 8, 2019.
Image: © Andrew McConnell/UNHCR

Despite these hardships, “Colombia still has kept its border open, and is doing everything it can to absorb these unprecedented numbers of desperate people,” Jolie said. “Colombians know displacement all too well.”

Jolie also pointed out, that contrary tounlike popular belief, most migrants seeking refuge are often displaced within their own country’s borders or flee to neighboring countries, with less than 1% of all refugees being resettled in western nations. She also called out the global trend of policies aimed at turning refugees away.

“With the numbers of refugees worldwide rising so fast, it is naïve at best and duplicitous at worst to present these policies as if they were some kind of solution,” she said.

“When your neighbor’s house is on fire, you are not safe if you simply lock your door.”