News World Angelina Jolie shines light on Latin America’s “staggering” refugee exodus

Angelina Jolie shines light on Latin America’s “staggering” refugee exodus

United Nations High Commission for Refugees Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meets refugee Yoryanis Ojeda, 35, living in Colombia. Photo: Getty
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Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie has used her star power to expose what the UN says is the largest movement of people in recent Latin American history.

More than 4 million refugees have fled the South American country of Venezuela due to violence, insecurity, lack of food and medicine.

Since November alone, 1 million people have escaped while the United Nations estimates departures have “skyrocketed” 4000 per cent since 2014.

Globally, the UN said Venezuelans were one of the single largest displaced population groups and described the outflow as “staggering”.

Angelina Jolie meets Venezuelan refugees living in Colombia during her two-day visit to the region. Photo: AAP

Venezuela’s imploding economy has brought widespread shortages of basic foods and medicines, while political hostilities have led to waves of fatal violence.

The dire situation has led to families packing their belongings and seeking refuge in neighbouring South American countries which are now struggling with the burden of arrivals.

Venezuelan migrants receive food outside a migrant shelter in neighbouring Colombia. Photo: Getty

Angelina Jolie undertook a two-day trip to Colombia, a neighbouring country supporting the largest number of Venezuelan refugees, and met with the Colombian President Ivan Duque.

More than a million Venezuelans are living in Colombia, where the government and aid agencies have scrambled to provide housing, food and healthcare.

Jolie urged the international community to provide more support to three South American countries struggling to cope with the influx.

As special envoy for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Jolie said 20,000 Venezuelan children were at risk of being without basic citizenship rights.

The parents of Venezuelan children born abroad often struggle to register their baby’s birth, either because they do not have access to Venezuelan consulates or because they do not have migration papers.

“The president and I spoke of the risk of statelessness for more than 20,000 Venezuelan children, his commitment to always helping children,” Academy Award-winner Jolie, 44, said.

“We agreed on the urgent need for the international community to give more support to Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, who are bearing the brunt of this crisis.”

She described people, and children, who experienced displacement as “the strongest people in the world”.

The United Nations has called for international help, saying the crisis was too much for South American nations.

Colombia is hosting some 1.3 million Venezuelans, followed by Peru, with 768,000, Chile 288,000, Ecuador 263,000, Brazil 168,000, and Argentina 130,000.

Mexico and countries in Central America and the Caribbean are also hosting significant numbers of refugees and migrants from Venezuela.

“These alarming figures highlight the urgent need to support host communities in the receiving countries,” said Eduardo Stein, joint UNHCR-IOM special representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants.

“Latin American and Caribbean countries are doing their part to respond to this unprecedented crisis but they cannot be expected to continue doing it without international help.”

-with AAP