The number of migrants in the European Union has dramatically increased as Venezuelans and Colombians flood in following conflicts back home.
Asylum seekers from Venezuela have increased by 121 per cent to 14,257, meaning it has overtaken the number coming from Syria.
People seeking refuge from Colombia also shot up by 156 per cent to 8,097 in the first four months of this year, according to the European Asylum Support Office.
Colombia and Venezuela are both members of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).
Their citizens can travel to the EU – moving around freely using the Schengen Zone – if they have an ETIAS waiver. From there they can then seek asylum.
Venezuelan’s are seeking refuge due to the country’s deteriorating political situation, a severe economic crisis and increasing violence.
And Colombians are feeling the pressure of taking on more than one million migrants from its neighbour, as the government and aid agencies have scrambled to provide housing, food and healthcare.
Around 206,500 people applied for asylum in the EU between January and April – marking a 15 per cent increase on last year.
It comes after 2018 figures showed an 11 per cent decline in migrants in the EU, with the recent hike attributed to visa-free travel, according to Berliner Morgenpost.
Just over one in every four asylum seeker this year was legally allowed to enter the bloc under the 1985 agreement.
The 2015 Syrian refugee crisis has seen numbers swell to 20,392 first-time asylum applications made to the EU this year.
Thousands of people crossed from Venezuela into Colombia on Saturday to buy food and medicine after President Nicolás Maduro reopened the border between the countries after it was closed for the past four months.
Long lines of Venezuelans stood at two international bridges near the city of Cúcuta as they waited to have their documents checked by Colombian officials.
Venezuelan border guards dressed in green uniforms helped control the crowd.
The South American nation’s socialist government ordered the borders with Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Brazil and Colombia to close in February when they tried to deliver food and medical supplies into the country.
Most of the aid was provided by the US, a key ally of opposition leader Juan Guaidó who declared himself to be Venezuela’s rightful president in January.
But Maduro dismissed the aid as an infringement on Venezuela’s sovereignty and prohibited it from entering.
Last month, the government reopened borders with Aruba and Brazil, but the Simon Bolivar International Bridge and the Francisco de Paula Santander International Bridge with Colombia only reopened on Saturday.
The move saw a flood of people enter Colombia and secure items that are scarce in Venezuela.
Colombia is facing problems itself, as the country’s president chips away at the landmark 2016 peace deal with FARC guerrillas.
This has seen an increase in violence as trust between new president Ivan Duque and the militia has deteriorated.
Venezuela, a once-wealthy oil nation, is facing more severe issues, with basic goods shortages and hyperinflation that is expected to surpass 10million per cent this year, according to a recent IMF estimate.
The chaos has been further aggravated by US sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports and has forced an estimated 5,000 people to leave the country each day, the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees said.
The UN refugee agency said on Friday that 4million Venezuelans – almost 15 per cent of the population – have left the country.
The UNHCR’s special envoy Angelina Jolie visited another part of the Colombia-Venezuela border on Saturday to learn more about the conditions faced by migrants and refugees and raise awareness about their needs.
The Hollywood actress met with aid workers and Venezuelans and toured a tent village built by UNHCR for vulnerable migrants.
Jolie gave a brief statement in which she praised Colombia for receiving more than 1.3million Venezuelan migrants and refugees – and urged the leaders of developed countries to do more to help displaced people around the world.
She said: ‘Looking across the world it seems that those who have the least, are those that often give the most.
‘Instead of focusing on how to address the gap in diplomacy and security and peace that is causing growing numbers of people to move, we hear increasing talk of what individual governments are not prepared to do.’