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U.N. Moves Closer To Designating Desperate Venezuelan Migrants As Refugees

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Fernando Vergara
/
AP via Miami Herald
Venezuelans cross into Colombia last month fleeing their country's economic collapse.

As hundreds of thousands of desperate Venezuelans pour out of their country, calls are growing to officially designate them as refugees. The United Nations has now taken a big step in that direction.

The numbers – and the suffering – have simply gotten too big for the international community to ignore. Venezuela’s economy is in the middle of the worst collapse in the world today. Food and medicine shortages are catastrophic. Since 2014, more than a million people have fled the country - and the number of Venezuelans seeking asylum abroad has risen 2,000 percent.

Some 600,000 Venezuelans now live in Colombia alone – most of them along the border – and conditions there are deteriorating fast. The big question is when organizations like the UN will formally designate those Venezuelans refugees, like those leaving Syria.

The UN has now come closer – asking countries to offer Venezuelan migrants treatment similar to what refugees get. It wants them to offer “safeguards” like access to legal residence, the right to work and protection from deportation.

Venezuelan expats, especially here in South Florida, are pressing the UN to go further. Earlier this week the head of the UN’s World Food Program said the Venezuelan migrant situation on the Colombian border could "turn into an absolute disaster in unprecedented proportions for the Western Hemisphere."