The latest refugee crisis is not happening anywhere near a war zone

On the run.
On the run.
Image: Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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Venezuela is not at war, yet it’s starting to look like Syria based on the exodus of people fleeing the country.

The country’s basket-case economy and escalating confrontations between the government and the opposition have made life untenable for many Venezuelans. Food and medicine are hard to come by, and so is cash. The government is also stepping up its crackdown on opponents.

As in Syria, the number of people looking for refuge has rapidly climbed. Since 2015, four million people have left Venezuela, according to the latest data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR.)

And like Syrians, most Venezuelans are escaping to neighboring countries, which have seen a surge in asylum seekers. A large share of them have crossed the border into Colombia, often only with whatever belongings they can carry.

In the case of Syrians, millions have headed to Turkey:

To be sure, the 6.8 million Syrians who have left their country—according to UNHRC’s 2018 count—far exceeds the number of fleeing Venezuelans. Still, the mass flight from both countries is a reminder of how quickly local conflict can spill over into the surrounding region. In the case of Syria, the effects of its civil war have spread even further, into European politics.

It’s only a matter of time before the crisis in Venezuela begins resonating more seriously in the United States and beyond.