5.3 million people will have fled Venezuela by end of 2019: UN

2 min

Geneva (AFP)

The United Nations on Friday forecast that 5.3 million Venezuelans will have fled the country by the end of next year, an exodus that amounts to "a humanitarian earthquake".

The UN agencies for refugees (UNHCR) and migration (IOM) announced the estimates as they unveiled their response plan to the largest displacement of people in Latin America's recent history.

Some 3.3 million Venezuelans are currently living abroad, roughly 2.3 million of whom have fled the country's political and economic crisis since 2015.

"We are indeed facing a humanitarian earthquake," Eduardo Stein, the UNHCR-IOM special representative for Venezuela told reporters in Geneva.

The UN appealed for $738 million (654 million euros) to help displaced Venezuelans as well 16 countries currently hosting them.

Stein noted that the projection of two million more Venezuelans fleeing the country next year was "a planning estimation".

The numbers of people leaving Venezuela have fluctuated through the crisis.

In August, about 18,000 people were leaving daily, but the figure has fallen to around 5,000, Stein said.

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told reporters that the reasons for people fleeing varied "from pure hunger to violence and lack of security".

Among those who have already left, some 365,000 have applied for asylum abroad, Grandi said.

Despite sitting on the largest oil reserves in the world, President Nicolas Maduro's leftist government has been consumed by a crippling economic crisis.

Maduro's crackdown on the opposition and other purportedly authoritarian measures have triggered global condemnation and economic sanctions, including by the United States.