The Humanitarian Colombia Mission, a permanent action of Fraternidade – International Humanitarian Missions in the South-American country that receives the greatest number of refugees, was in the city of Tunja, in Boyaca state of the Colombian central region, to help a shelter that welcomes the population coming from Venezuela, but which is just passing in the city.

“They are refugees who have been walking from Venezuela to this city, but who are going to other localities of Colombia itself or to other countries, such as Ecuador and Peru, seeking opportunities”, says Priscila Vasques, the coordinator of Fraternidade eight-volunteer team, which is resuming the humanitarian help in Colombia, after a pause of almost six months due to local bureaucratic problems. The Mission began in January 2018.

The Fraternidade team had already visited this shelter before, to offer the necessary services and to contribute to bring some comfort to the walkers. Located in a house split in wings for men, for women and for mothers with children, it welcomes refugees for one day, normally. “In more specific cases of vulnerability, they may stay a little longer”, remarks Priscila.

In the shelter, the Fraternidade team organized the storage where are kept the products received to be donated to the refugees, such as clothes and footwear. “The space was organized to have the greatest possible number of beds. Thus, the storage is small and a good part of the donations was piled up on the floor”. The volunteers of Fraternidade also collaborated in the cleaning of the area where the children stay.

Hard journey

Tunja is 115 kilometers from Bogota, the Colombian capital, and it is one of the routes chosen by the refugees that enter the country via the city of Cucuta, located on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. The walkers continue from there to Bucaramanga, state of Santander, in the route of the Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes, a long and cold stretch of walk. After this difficult journey, of more than 400 kilimeters, they arrive in Tunja.

“In the city, there is only one shelter, where they can rest, eat, take a shower and resume their walk. Many arrive with sore feet, without adequate footwear and some in a health state that demands care”, highlights Priscila. After Tunja, most of them continues to Bogota or other destinations.

The number of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia has reached more than 1.3 million people in May. The data are from the United Nations, and represents the second migration in the world, after the crisis caused by war in Syria. A daily average of 63 thousand Venezuelans cross the border between Colombia and Venezuela, of which 2.5 thousand remain in Colombian territory, subjecting to a severe lack of food, medicines, lack of shelter and security.