Video: The Plight of Venezuela's Returning Refugees

OAS Special Envoy David Smolansky discussed the desperate conditions Venezuelan refugees are facing as they try to return to their country.


  • David Smolansky, Special Envoy to the OAS Secretary General for Venezuela’s Migration and Refugee Crisis
  • Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, Council of the Americas (moderator)

In a Council of the Americas event with David Smolansky, the special envoy to the OAS secretary general discussed how COVID-19 presents many challenges to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and the region. Facing desperation and despair in their adopted countries, many Venezuelan refugees have decided to return home. But their journeys have been complicated by closed border crossings in Venezuela. With borders likely to stay closed for the rest of 2020, refugees face extortion by border control agents, illegal groups, human traffickers, and illegal detainment in their effort to return home or leave the country. "According to Colombian migration authorities, an estimated 500 Venezuelans arrived in Colombia through illegal pathways in the last two weeks," said Smolansky. Venezuelan refugees continue to face dire conditions and dangers not only at land crossings, but at sea, with many attempting to use small boats to reach island nations in the Caribbean, a perilous journey to escape poverty and persecution.