United Nations tent camp for Venezuelan refugees in Colombia plans to expand

Some 300 Venezuelans find healthcare, food at UN tent camp

MAICAO, Colombia – Down a dusty gravel road in Maicao, an arid area of northeast Colombia, there is a small haven for Venezuelans in search of food and medical attention.

It's the first United Nations' tent camp near the border with Venezuela. It has been growing since it opened in March. With 60 tents that only provide protection from the elements, the camp can shelter about 300 refugees. 

Yudymar Balbosa, a mother who is pregnant, said she and her family feel grateful for the camp. She said the humanitarian crisis sent them running out of Venezuela.  

"My husband, he is a teacher," Balbosa said, adding that before finding the camp they were homeless and had been forced to beg for food in the streets of Venezuela. 


The transitional refugee camp in the desert has a long waiting list. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees aims to provide shelter to about 1,400 Venezuelans at a time there. To raise awareness about the challenge, Angelina Jolie, a UNHCR envoy visited the camp in June. 

"This is a life and death situation for millions of Venezuelans," Jolie told reporters during her visit. 


There are over 4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela worldwide. Desperate refugees are testing Colombia's public services. 

Margarita Graterol said she traveled to the camp with her granddaughter who s unable to walk and needs anti-seizure medication. For six weeks, they will receive shelter, three daily meals and healthcare.


Graterol said she doesn't know what disease is causing her granddaughter's ailments, and she is hoping to find answers at the camp. 

"I want to see my girl walk," Graterol said, adding that she also worries about other relatives in Venezuelan who don't have access to the medications they need. 

The UN also supports shelters in border cities in Colombia, and they have also set up a camp near the Brazil-Venezuela border.


THE NUMBERS: Venezuelan migrants world wide

Over 4 million migrants 

464,229 asylum-seekers

About 1.8 million living under other legal forms of stay in the Americas

Source: UNHCR



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