“This is Simon Bolivar Bridge, we are in Cúcuta in Villa del Rosario, in Colombia.
“This is Simon Bolivar Bridge, we are in Cúcuta in Villa del Rosario, in Colombia. Just a couple of hundred meters away is the border with Venezuela. I’m on the Colombian side and all the people you see around me, up to 40,000, cross this bridge every day.”
Cúcuta is Colombia’s main border crossing. It is the most crowded and relatively safest place where Venezuelans can cross. Along the 2,200 km of porous border between the two countries it is not the same. Migrants can end up in areas controlled by armed groups.
At the migration office next to the border in Cúcuta an average of 3,500 people stamp their passports every day. Their main concern as they arrive is communicating with their families..
They tell them they have made it into Colombia and they are ready to leave again. The majority of the people here are heading to third countries after long trips across the border. Many tell us about the difficulties they have encountered in crossing the border.
“Are they asking for money (on the Venezuelan side)?
“Yes, they ask for 10 dollars, which is about 30,000 Colombian pesos or 2,500,000 bolivares.”
“What does this mean for you?”
“It’s three minimum wages. It’s a lot of money for us.”
Venezuela’s political turmoil and crumbling economy, with over 2,600% inflation last year, led to a dramatic shortage of medicines and food in the country. Illnesses such as tuberculosis and malaria have reappeared, several reports say.
Up to 4 million Venezuelans are believed to have left the country since the beginning of the crisis. Two million only last year, according to official figures. More and more migrants settle in Cúcuta or go back and forth to run little businesses. This border town, and the whole Colombia with it, has been thrown into a massive humanitarian crisis.