Venezuelans carrying groceries cross the Simon Bolivar bridge from Cucuta in Colombia back to San Antonio de Tachira in Venezuela, on July 17, 2016 (AFP Photo/George Castellanos)
AFP: Venezuelans fleeing crisis flood into Colombia: UN
Bogota (AFP) - Venezuela's economic crisis has sent a huge but largely ignored wave of people into Colombia, and many more could be on the way, a senior UN refugee official said.
"It's a silent arrival of a lot of people who are crossing the border and staying illegally on the Colombian side," said Martin Gottwald, the United Nations Refugee Agency's representative in Colombia.
No exact figures are available, but the number of Venezuelans fleeing to Colombia is already "quite large," and Colombia should prepare itself for more, Gottwald told AFP in an interview.
"The avalanche is probably going to increase, with or without the reopening of the border," he said.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro closed the countries' border in August 2015 after an attack on an army patrol. He blamed right-wing paramilitaries from Colombia.
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WNU Editor: I have friends who live in neighbouring Guyana .... they tell me that they are now seeing Venezuelans everywhere, and these people have no interest in going back home. In a country (Guyana) with a population of only 800,000 .... they are not prepared for the possible migration of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans. But it is Colombia that is going to face the brunt of these migrants, and they are not projecting a crisis situation by next year.