More than half a million Venezuelans have crossed into Ecuador this year, the UN said on Friday, after Quito declared a state of migration emergency triggered by the crisis engulfing Venezuela.
Colombia and Brazil, which share borders with Venezuela, have borne the brunt of the regional humanitarian emergency brought on by the near total collapse of the Venezuelan economy.
However, with the crisis deepening, the “influx is now accelerating” into Ecuador and beyond, with some people making arduous weeks-long journeys on foot before finding a place to settle, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said in Geneva.
“Since the beginning of the year, some 547,000 Venezuelans have entered Ecuador through the Colombian border,” UNHCR said, noting that most have continued on wards to Peru and Chile.
“Many run out of resources to continue their journey and, left destitute, are forced to live rough in public parks and resort to begging; in order to meet their daily needs,” the agency added.
UNHCR said Ecuador’s state of emergency declaration would help mobilise more resources and announced that the UN was also stepping up its regional response.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has tightened his grip over opponents whom he has branded as agents of a foreign-backed plot.
Caracas’s diplomatic isolation has intensified, with the country in the grip of staggering hyperinflation, shortages of food and medicine.