Venezuelan refugees are making significant economic contributions throughout South America, reports the International Monetary Fund (IMF), especially in Colombia. With a younger average age and higher education level than their hosts, Venezuelan migrants will boost Colombia’s GDP by as much as 0.3% by 2030.
“We coffee growers are thanking god for the migrants,” says Mr. Gamboa, a coffee producer who relies on Venezuelan refugees for cheap labor. Migrants are also picking potatoes in the Andes Mountains, a back-breaking task.
Venezuelan migrants have been so helpful that Colombian President Ivan Duque this month decided to give all of them legal status. With the proper paperwork, they will have access to schooling, healthcare, vaccines, and other benefits. “This marks a milestone in immigration policy for Colombia and for Latin America,” said Duque. “We hope that other countries follow our example.”
This is all well and good for Colombia, but what about the Venezuelans?
John Cases, 28, is a former engineering student who once dreamed of working for Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA. Now, he earns his living picking coffee beans in Colombia. “I never imagined I’d be doing this,” said John.
John is among millions of people whose livelihoods were destroyed by the economic collapse in Venezuela. The crash, which resulted from years of Socialist policies, produced hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages, and mass unemployment. More than 5 million people have fled Venezuela since 2015, and that number will reach 10 million by 2023. An estimated 1.8 million are currently living in neighboring Colombia, most of them without papers.
Author’s Note: Venezuela used to be one of the richest countries in South America and it still has more oil reserves than any country in the world. This is incredibly sad.