Surge in Venezuelan asylum seekers worries UNHCR

Surge in Venezuelan asylum seekers worries UNHCR

Surge in Venezuelan asylum seekers worries UNHCR

Guatemala City (AFP) - A worrying number of Venezuelans are seeking asylum in other countries as they flee economic collapse at home, a top official from the United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday.

Central America and Mexico are seeing "very dynamic movement" linked to the growing exodus from Venezuela, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements said during a visit to Guatemala.

She said UNHCR was "deeply concerned" by the outflow.

"This is something we need to preparing quite substantially for, in terms of additional support," Clements said.

She said her agency was looking at what was causing the emigration, what protections could be offered and "most importantly, how we can support those governments in the region."

Clements did not give numbers for the number of Venezuelan asylum seekers.

Colombia recently said that half a million Venezuelans have entered its territory, both legally and illegally.

Brazil has boosted the military presence along its border with Venezuela and declared a state of emergency in the north of the country, where 40,000 Venezuelans have started living in the city of Boa Vista.

There are fears the surge could turn into a flood as Venezuela, which is on the brink of default despite vast oil wealth, grapples with hyperinflation, scarce food and medicine, and political turmoil.

Clements was making a regional tour that started with Mexico and will also take her to Honduras.

The American official, who used to work on migration and refugee issues at the US State Department, became deputy chief of UNHCR in July 2015.

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