NEW YORK, NY, Dec. 20, 2018 – International Rescue Committee (IRC) voice and Deadpool star Morena Baccarin has called for urgent international support in the face of the largest refugee crisis in Latin American history at the end of a three-day visit to Colombia to meet Venezuelan refugees.
In Cucuta, on the Colombian border, Baccarin met with some of the Venezuelan refugees who have settled in Colombia, and who benefit from the IRC’s health, cash, women’s and children’s protection assistance. Baccarin spoke with parents forced to leave their children behind, unable to feed them due to prices of basic goods doubling or tripling even within the span of a week. A recent IRC assessment revealed Venezuelans living in Colombia are forced by hunger and poverty to undertake desperate measures in order to earn money, separated from their children at five times the emergency average.
Morena Baccarin, IRC voice and actress said: “The Venezuelans fleeing for a better place don’t look the part of the desperate refugee fleeing a war-torn country- they look like you and me. I ask myself, how bad would things have to be for me to leave my home and rebuild everything? Including having nowhere to turn and having to place my children’s little bodies in the street to sleep at night. It’s hard to imagine – and yet it’s happening every day with thousands of people migrating to Colombia.
The stories are many and each one echoing the same needs. The need to survive. The need to work in order to afford the basics: food, water, medicine, diapers, even toilet paper. It may not be a war zone emergency, but it is certainly a humanitarian one.
I did not expect the resilience, pride and goodness of people undergoing such adversity. The feeling I thought I would experience of not knowing how to make a difference changed. I now know what can help. Beyond the essential assistance the IRC provides to children and their families, a long-term solution is needed that allows these human beings a chance to contribute, to access healthcare, to send their children to school, to be documented and not fall prey to terrible circumstances.
The holidays are quickly approaching and my heart and thoughts are with those families I met in Colombia. The ones separated and living in such desperate need.”
One of the refugees Baccarin spent time with, 29-year old mother of two and former student Andrea, came to Colombia when her baby was a few months old. “Before the crisis, I was studying, I had a small shop and my daughter was learning in school. Now, we are living day by day, seeing how we will afford water, food, and our rent.” She continued, “Venezuelans need help. Not just those who had to leave- but those who are still inside.”
3 million Venezuelans and counting have left their country since 2015, 1 million of which have settled in Colombia, in the face of the unprecedented collapse of the country’s economy and health systems. As Venezuela’s crisis deepens, the UN has estimated that over 5 million refugees will be displaced by this time next year, with 2 million expected in Colombia alone – eclipsing the Syrian refugee crisis.
IRC Country Director for Colombia, Marianne Menjivar added, “The scale of this crisis is absolutely staggering. With each passing day the crisis in Venezuela worsens and families are paying the price. The Government of Colombia has extended extraordinary support to Venezuelans – but conditions remain dire. We encourage the government of Colombia and other regional states to take concrete steps to ensure Venezuelans have access to documentation, regularization, and access to basic services such as health and shelter of which they are in dire need.
Regional and international donors must step up their support including by fully funding the UN Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan. In the US, the introduction of a bipartisan bill by Senators Menendez, Rubio, and colleagues to increase support for regional asylum mechanisms and grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelans in the U.S. is a promising start – a recognition of their plight and of our moral and humanitarian obligations.
The international community must step up and honor its commitment to supporting and protecting those who are forced to flee across borders in search of safety.”
Since April 2018, the IRC has been working in Cucuta, supporting Venezuelans and vulnerable Colombians with specialized services for women and children, cash and health services. In the coming months we will be expanding our programs to support Venezuelans across the country. To date IRC has reached over 3000 people in Colombia.
More information on the IRC’s current response in Colombia here.