It is neither Syria nor South Sudan that faces the world’s largest displacement crisis, but Colombia, where there were 7.3 million registered internally displaced people as of early 2017. Another 340,000 Colombian refugees are still abroad, mainly in Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama and Costa Rica, despite a peace deal in 2016 that effectively ended the war between FARC guerrillas and the Colombian government. Some would-be returnees are still wary of reprisal violence and threats from National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels and rump factions of the FARC who have yet to lay down their weapons.
Right next door, Venezuela’s prolonged political, economic and security crisis has also created a massive displacement emergency, as over 1.5 million Venezuelans have fled the country. Roughly one million of them have relocated to Colombian border towns, causing levels of intolerance and xenophobia to skyrocket. As of March, 146,000 Venezuelans had filed asylum claims worldwide and another 444,000 had been granted temporary and permanent residence permits abroad, a 2,000 percent increase from just three years ago. They are escaping threats of political persecution and criminal violence, but are also in search of food, medicine and basic services.
Brazil is hardly immune from displacement. Although fewer than 5,000 Brazilians have requested refugee asylum in other countries since 2014, Brazil is also suffering from a monumental internal displacement emergency.