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The bridge of last hope is a window on modern Venezuela | View

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

We’ve seen engineers selling candy, mothers forced to become prostitutes, nurses sleeping on the streets, cancer patients begging for treatment.

A desperate population of Venezuelan migrants - up to 40,000 a day - arrives in the Colombian border municipality of Cúcuta. The majority travel back and forth daily but up to 4,000 get their visas next to Simon Bolivar bridge, the main Colombian border crossing. Their aim is to head on to other countries.

The world is paying little attention to a crisis which has a similar impact to an earthquake or a cyclone but without the accompanying images of destruction and violence. 

Unlike with a natural disaster, infrastructure and houses are not swiftly destroyed but slowly crumble.

The people see the same cruel fate engulfing their families, jobs and careers. Millions of Venezuelans are slowly and painfully dying from hunger in a country that stopped guaranteeing any kind of democracy and fairness to its residents long ago.

For many, the choice is to flee or die. Families are splitting up to survive; parents leaving their children in Venezuela as they go in search of any sort of income. The educated younger generation, that should be the engine of the country, are part of the exodus too. Anything is better than staying in a country where the six-dollar minimum monthly wage is barely enough to buy a kilo of rice; a country where the state delivers food aid packages only to the supporters of the ruling political party.

Hyperinflation and totalitarian rule are forcing even middle-class Venezuelans to leave, they are reduced to begging and sleeping in the streets of neighbouring Colombia. These are the victims of a humanitarian disaster but the only way of entering Colombia is with tourist visas or temporary permits.

Colombia is nervous about this unprecedented influx of migrants and has tightened entry rules and increased border controls. That, along with a rising number of "deportations", could drive up the number of migrants using dangerous illegal entry routes controlled by armed groups and smugglers.

Walking over the Simon Bolivar bridge it feels like one is surrounded by survivors. Some are in wheelchairs, others try to keep up appearances but looking closely there are the clear signs of poverty. Many drag behind them all of the belongings that they can carry, stuffed into huge bags, others sneak in local Venezuelan products to sell in Colombia.

After being there for a couple of days you start recognising faces and learn their stories; stories that are all similar but differently surreal at the same time. Some cross to Cúcuta once a day just for a free meal. One woman came across the border with appendicitis, from which she would have died without treatment in Venezuela. A young man who is shockingly malnourished collapses while queuing at the migration centre. Half an hour later he is recovered enough to stagger to the line again, passport in hand to receive the entry stamp that promises a fresh start - away from Venezuela. 

Monica Pinna is a Euronews journalist and presenter of Aid Zone

The opinions expressed in View articles do not reflect those of Euronews


A big thanks to the European Commission - Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid Operations - ECHO for making this mission possible and financing emergency projects for Venezuelan migrants, to Commissioner Christos Stylianides, Ruth Silva and Diego García Durán, Hilaire Avril, United Nations OCHA and to all the humanitarian workers who help migrants every day Cruz Roja Alemana, Cruz Roja Colombiana, NRC - Norwegian Refugee Council, Misioneros Scalabrinianos Cúcuta