• Crisis Severity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Key figures

  • 3,601,000 People affected [?]
  • 2,859,000 People displaced [?]
  • 3,601,000 People in Need [?]

Special Reports




The Venezuelan migrant population in Colombia rose from less than 39,000 people in 2015 to 1.82 million in March 2020. As of March 2020, some 800,000 Venezuelans have legalised their status in Colombia, and more than 1 million are in an irregular situation (undocumented). In 2019, nearly 500,000 refugees and migrants transited through Colombia towards other Latin American countries. An estimated 1.77 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants will need humanitarian assistance in 2020. An additional 4.94 million Venezuelan people hold a Border Mobility Card (TMF), allowing them to stay in Colombia for up to one week, especially to acquire food and medicines. ?

Venezuelan migrants in Norte de Santander, Valle del Cauca and Nariño are exposed to a double impact owing to the high level of armed violence causing mass displacement and protection issues in these departments. Those in an irregular situation are particularly exposed to protection issues related to sexual and gender-based violence, forced recruitment, and forced labor in border and rural areas. Many refugees and migrants in urban areas are homeless or housed in informal or overcrowded shelters without proper access to basic sanitation and conducive to the spread of diseases, also creating protection risks. Discrimination and xenophobia towards Venezuelan refugees and migrants hinders access to social and economic services. 

The main needs reported for newly arrived Venezuelans are food, shelter and healthcare, while refugees and migrants with intention to stay in Colombia report access to the labour market, education, and social services as following priorities.

Latest Developments


On 8 February, Colombian President Ivan Duque presented the Temporary Protection Statute for Venezuelan Migrants for the regularisation of around 1 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants living in Colombia. The statute benefits Venezuelans with entry and stay permits, asylum seekers, holders of an ‘SC-2 laissez-passer’ document who are in the process of obtaining a visa from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and migrants in an irregular situation who can prove they were in Colombia before 31 January 2021. The statute will facilitate access to healthcare and legal employment opportunities for Venezuelan migrants and refugees. The objective is to allow Venezuelan migrants in Colombia to transfer from a temporary protection regime to an ordinary migration procedure that gives Venezuelan migrants 10 years to acquire a resident visa.?

ACAPS' team is daily monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information related to the outbreak in the Venezuelan refugee crisis, see content below.


The reactivation of Colombia’s economic activity leads to a large influx of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, who will face increased livelihood and protection needs aggravated by a rise in xenophobia Latest update: 05/11/2020


Highly unlikely Somewhat likely Highly likely


Very low Moderate Major

Colombia hosts around 1.8 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants. Many of these are part of the informal economy and lost their livelihoods because of COVID-19 containment measures. Colombia’s economy has been particularly affected by COVID-19, experiencing a 7.1% GDP loss since March and an increase in the unemployment rate of 6% from August 2019 to August 2020.? This pushed many vulnerable Venezuelans into poverty, food insecurity, and increased evictions (because of being unable to pay rent).

Because of the situation in Colombia and other countries in the region, over 120,000 Venezuelans have returned to Venezuela since March 2020.?

In Venezuela, challenges in accessing basic services and goods, food insecurity, and the risk of political persecution remain. The situation has been further aggravated by the pandemic. As a result, it is estimated that in the next five months 200,000 to 250,000 Venezuelans will try to reach Colombia, as Colombia’s economy has re-opened following the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions.? In July 2020, Colombia migration authorities estimated that 80% of those who returned to Venezuela would possibly come back to Colombia and that every re-migrating person would be accompanied by a new migrant.? According to Colombian author-ities, 300 Venezuelans are entering Colombia daily.? Since the Colombia-Venezuela border remains officially closed, Venezuelan refugees and migrants predominantly cross via irregular land and river border crossings. Those who enter irregularly and who lack a regular status in Colombia will highly likely face challenges in accessing protection and basic services, making them particularly vulnerable to the armed conflict in Colombia.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, xenophobia against Venezuelans has increased, as a result of rising economic and social tensions. The percentage of Colombians who hold negative opinions towards Venezuelan refugees and migrants jumped from 67% in February 2020 to 81% in April, but dropped again to 65% in June.?


Most of the Venezuelan refugees and migrants who will cross the border to Colombia in the coming months will use irregular border crossings. This highly increases their exposure to conflict, armed groups, sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation, forced recruitment, forced labour, and human rights abuses. In Colombia, they will lack a regular status, preventing them from accessing basic services and exposing them to protection risks, including fear (real or imagined) of deportation, risk of labour exploitation, and inability to report crimes and abuses to the authorities. In particular, Venezuelan migrants and refugees who move through Colombia on foot (so-called caminantes) risk greater exposure to COVID-19, limited access to proper sanita-tion and hygiene, and lack of access to adequate shelter.

Once back in Colombia, it is likely that returning Venezuelan refugees and migrants will face higher levels of xenophobia and increased labour competition, which will make it more challeng-ing for them to reintegrate into the labour market, diminishing their livelihoods. This is likely to result in higher poverty levels, lack of shelter, food insecurity, and lack of access to a diversi-fied diet. Real or perceived competition over limited resources between Colombians and Venezuelans will probably lead to a rise in resentment among the Colombian population.?

Read the latest October Risk Analysis here

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Health: As of June 2019, only 158,829 Venezuelans were affiliated to the Colombian national healthcare system. There are enormous challenges in public health and humanitarian assistance, required to strengthen the response especially for the refugees and migrants in irregular situations.

Food security: In 2020 around 1.81 million refugees and migrants will need food assistance and nutritional interventions. The most affected departments are La Guajira, Norte de Santander, Arauca and Nariño, followed by Atlántico, Magdalena, Bolívar, Cesar, Antioquia and Valle del Cauca

Protection: Labour exploitation, sexual and gender-based violence, forced recruitment, theft, physical assault, and intimidation were the main incidents reported in 2019.?



The COVID-19 crisis has led to significant regional population movements in Latin America, both inside countries and across borders. Many Venezuelan refugees and migrants working in the informal economy in Colombia, Brazil and Peru have lost their livelihoods and face poverty, eviction, food insecurity, and increased protection risks. As a result there is a growing number of Venezuelans that are returning to Venezuela. For the first time since 2015 the number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Colombia has decreased, with more than 105,000 Venezuelans returning to their country since March.?

On 13 March the Colombian government announced the immediate closure of all borders to limit the spread of COVID-19 but kept open two humanitarian corridor for returnees.?

As of 21 August, Venezuelan authorities announced the closure of the humanitarian corridor in Norte de Santander, the main one used by returnees. The situation remains complex with overcrowding of different points along the border and higher number of migrants crossing irregularly. Estimations suggest that there are around 42,000 Venezuelan migrants and refugees waiting in different points of Colombia to go back to their country of origin: 18,000 in Bogota, 3,200 in Medellin and the rest in the region of Norte de Santander.?

Find more information about the global impact of COVID-19 here.