Over 5 million people could flee Venezuela by year's end: study


Washington (AFP)

The crisis in Venezuela could have displaced more than five million people by the end of this year if there is no letup in the country's crisis, a report said Friday, comparing the flow with that of Afghanistan and Syria.

The number cited in the report for the Organization of American States would be roughly double the 2.7 million the United Nations says have left Venezuela since 2015, a mass migration burdening Colombia and other neighboring countries.

"Without any significant change that could reverse the economic, political and social crisis in Venezuela, the total number of migrants and refugees could reach between 5.39 and 5.75 million by the end of 2019," said the report commissioned by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.

Venezuelans are fleeing an economic collapse with shortages of food and medicine alongside rising crime and hyperinflation under President Nicolas Maduro, whose rule is being challenged by National Assembly leader Juan Guaido.

The OAS report was coordinated by Venezuelan opposition politician David Smolansky, with four independent experts.

It stressed that "the magnitude and speed" of the migratory flow of Venezuelans has similarities with other massive migrant crises caused by wars, as in Syria or Afghanistan.

The crisis in Syria, which began in 2011, generated 6.2 million internally displaced people as of August, according to the United Nations.

"The speed of growth in the total number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees is as high as the Syrian crisis in its early years," the report said.

Between 2015 and 2018, it said, at least 3.4 million people fled Venezuela. That represents more than 10 percent of the country's total population.