No end in sight: Mass exodus of Venezuelan refugees flood into neighboring countries
A review of Latin America's growing crisis.
- Millions of Venezuelan refugees are taxing their destination countries' infrastructures.
- About 4 million Venezuelans have already fled from their home country.
- Countries such as Peru and Ecuador are trying to stem the flow, while Colombia welcomes more in.
Latin America is suffering one of the largest refugee crises in its history. Venezuela's outpouring of refugees is only second to that of Syria. Already four million Venezuelans have escaped their homeland, the brunt of the exodus started in 2015. A staggering 12 percent of the country's entire population have already fled.
Running away from a collapsed economy and a repressive government, more than one million Venezuelans have left since the end of 2018. The UN predicts that this number will rise to 5.4 million before the year is through. Other sources project that several hundred thousand to millions more may join the fold by the early 2020s.
Venezuela’s refugee crisis
No country has been left unaffected by the impact of Venezuela's downfall. Colombia, which shares the longest border with Venezuela, at the moment hosts 1.3 million refugees. This is followed by roughly another 800,000 in Peru, 300,000 in Chile, and 260,000 in Ecuador. A number of Caribbean states have a high number of refugees relative to their total population, as well.
Colombia expects to take in up to 3 million refugees by 2021. Ambassador Francisco Santos recently told reporters, "To be very sincere, if it goes to 3 million, we don't have the money."
Only a fraction of international assistance has been devoted to the Venezuelan refugee crisis. Indeed, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) need an additional $738 million to assist migrant-receptive countries in both Latin America and the Caribbean region.
The joint UNHCR-IOM special representative for Venezuelan migrants, Eduardo Stein, recently stated, "We are looking at a complex set of needs for the next two years, even if there is a political solution today."
The UN has repeatedly put out calls for more funding: "Latin American and Caribbean countries are doing their part to respond to this unprecedented crisis, but they cannot be expected to continue doing it without international help," Stein declared.
Displacement of Venezuelans in Colombia
Millions are roving and crossing borders as the days go by. Some estimate that the exodus could, in all, exceed 8 million people. A number of bordering countries have already begun to tighten their entry requirements and put up further barriers. Ecuador, for instance, upped its requirements — Venezuelans now need to present a passport and a clear criminal record in order to get into the country. So far, both Brazil and Colombia have kept their open border policy.
A majority of the migrants have stayed in the region. Yet, as the crisis continues, these once open destination countries are becoming less welcoming. Dealing with their own problems of slow economic growth, scare jobs, and overtaxed health and education infrastructures, many of these countries can't support the influx of migrant entrants.
Recent waves of refugees are poorer than those that had come before. Lack of jobs and unstable environments, historically, lead to exploitation and the rise of crime. Colombia with its 1,400-mile border with Venezuela, is now dealing with disorder on one end of their country and a build up of refugees on its southern border, as Peru and Ecuador increasingly turn more Venezuelans away.
Brazil has been systematically relocating migrants to the border state of Roraima, where Venezuelans sometimes have been able to work informal jobs and ease labor shortages. The region's capital city, Boa Vista, with a population of 400,000, now has more than 50,000 displaced Venezuelans.
Venezuelan migrants gather at the Colombian Border
Photo credit: Juan David Moreno Gallego / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
As a result of the roiling in the region, there has been a surge of homelessness in many of the towns on the border. "We lost control of the city," says Teresa Surita, the mayor of Boa Vista.
Colombia's government officials estimate that 0.5 percent of their GDP goes to providing health care, schooling, and other infrastructural services to Venezuelans. Ecuadoran leaders, who recently went to the IMF for increased financial assistance, estimate that their nation spends about $170 million a year — or .16 percent of its GDP — on health and education for Venezuelan migrants with an exceptional humanitarian visa.
There has also been an increase of negative public sentiment regarding the refugees. Amparo Goyes, a resident of Quito, Ecuador's capital states, "People used to feel sorry for [Venezuelans], but now there's fear of crime."
Politicians and citizens are calling for tighter controls on migrants and restrictions on immigration.
Even so, amidst the changing attitudes and growing crisis, Colombia has been issuing permits that'll allow 700,000 Venezuelans the right to work and receive public services for a minimum of two years. Politicians in Colombia have even signed a pact that they won't stir anti-Venezuelan campaigns in the coming elections.
The crisis is Latin America seems to have only begun. Those most touched by the events occurring are urging the global community to assist them in coping with this crisis.
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The idea of 'absolute time' is an illusion. Physics and subjective experience reveal why.
- Since Einstein posited his theory of general relativity, we've understood that gravity has the power to warp space and time.
- This "time dilation" effect occurs even at small levels.
- Outside of physics, we experience distortions in how we perceive time — sometimes to a startling extent.
Physics without time<p>In his book "The Order of Time," Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli suggests that our perception of time — our sense that time is forever flowing forward — could be a highly subjective projection. After all, when you look at reality on the smallest scale (using equations of quantum gravity, at least), time vanishes.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If I observe the microscopic state of things," writes Rovelli, "then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between 'cause' and 'effect.'"</p><p>So, why do we perceive time as flowing <em>forward</em>? Rovelli notes that, although time disappears on extremely small scales, we still obviously perceive events occur sequentially in reality. In other words, we observe entropy: Order changing into disorder; an egg cracking and getting scrambled.</p><p>Rovelli says key aspects of time are described by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that heat always passes from hot to cold. This is a one-way street. For example, an ice cube melts into a hot cup of tea, never the reverse. Rovelli suggests a similar phenomenon might explain why we're only able to perceive the past and not the future.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Any time the future is definitely distinguishable from the past, there is something like heat involved," Rovelli wrote for the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ce6ef7b8-429a-11e8-93cf-67ac3a6482fd" target="_blank"><em>Financial Times</em></a>. "Thermodynamics traces the direction of time to something called the 'low entropy of the past', a still mysterious phenomenon on which discussions rage."</p>
The strange subjectivity of time<p>Time moves differently atop a mountain than it does on a beach. But you don't need to travel any distance at all to experience strange distortions in your perception of time. In moments of life-or-death fear, for example, your brain would release large amounts of adrenaline, which would speed up your internal clock, causing you to perceive the outside world as moving slowly.<br></p><p>Another common distortion occurs when we focus our attention in particular ways.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If you're thinking about how time is <em>currently</em> passing by, the biggest factor influencing your time perception is attention," Aaron Sackett, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, told <em><a href="https://gizmodo.com/why-does-time-slow-down-and-speed-up-1840133782" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a></em>.<em> "</em>The more attention you give to the passage of time, the slower it tends to go. As you become distracted from time's passing—perhaps by something interesting happening nearby, or a good daydreaming session—you're more likely to lose track of time, giving you the feeling that it's slipping by more quickly than before. "Time flies when you're having fun," they say, but really, it's more like "time flies when you're thinking about other things." That's why time will also often fly by when you're definitely <em>not</em> having fun—like when you're having a heated argument or are terrified about an upcoming presentation."</p><p>One of the most mysterious ways people experience time-perception distortions is through psychedelic drugs. In an interview with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/14/carlo-rovelli-exploding-commonsense-notions-order-of-time-interview" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, Rovelli described a time he experimented with LSD.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually," he said. "Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality."<br></p><p>It seems few scientists or philosophers believe time is completely an illusion.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What we call <em>time</em> is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers," Rovelli told <em><a href="https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4.20190219a/full/" target="_blank">Physics Today</a>.</em> "Some of time's layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions."</p>What <em>is</em> an illusion is the idea that time flows at an absolute rate. The river of time might be flowing forever forward, but it moves at different speeds, between people, and even within your own mind.
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