Latin America Is Facing a Refugee Crisis

Why It Matters That We Call Fleeing Venezuelans Refugees, Not Migrants

Venezuelan refugees carry their belongings across the Tachira river border between Colombia and Venezuela, August 2015 Jose Gomez / REUTERS

Picture your salary and life’s savings depleted by hyperinflation. The local store is missing many basic food products, and the pharmacy has no stock of the medicines you need on a daily or weekly basis. The only hospital in town is nonfunctional because it doesn’t carry basic medical supplies and even lacks running water, and schools are closed because of a lack of electricity. You leave your hometown and travel more than 2,000 miles by foot to the capital of a neighboring country, entirely uncertain what your future holds. When you arrive, you’re greeted with a xenophobic speech by a local politician, who accuses you of stealing jobs from locals and committing crimes.

This scenario has become all too familiar to migrants and refugees in Latin America, where 2.6 million Venezuelans, the vast majority of them since 2015, have poured into neighboring countries such as Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Peru

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