Homeless Venezuelans removed from local sports field

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Colombia evicts homeless Venezuelans
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Colombia evicts homeless Venezuelans
Men sleep in a sport center where a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants stays, in Cucuta, Colombia January 23, 2018. Picture taken January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People cook arepas using firewood in a sport center where a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants stays, in Cucuta, Colombia January 23, 2018. Picture taken January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Carolina Centeno (R) sits next to her family and their belongings, as they sleep in a sport center where a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants stays, in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People prepare to sleep in a sport center, where a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants stays, in Cucuta, Colombia January 23, 2018. Picture taken January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A man sleeps next to backpacks with the colors of the Venezuelan national flag, in a sport center where a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants stays, in Cucuta, Colombia January 23, 2018. Picture taken January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Men sit next to the fire as they cook arepas using firewoods in a sport center where a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants stays, in Cucuta, Colombia January 23, 2018. Picture taken January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Men cook arepas using firewood in a sport center where a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants stays, in Cucuta, Colombia January 23, 2018. Picture taken January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People sleep on the floor of a sport center, where a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants stays, in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People chat as others prepare to sleep in a sport center, where a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants stays, in Cucuta, Colombia January 23, 2018. Picture taken January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People prepare to sleep on the floor of a sport center, where a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants stays, in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Jhonfre Garcia smokes a cigarette as other Venezuelan migrants start waking up, during an operation by the Colombian police to evict them from a sport center, in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People collect their belongings next to police officers during an operation by the Colombian police to evict a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants from a sport center, in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A police officer talks to a man during an operation by the Colombian police to evict a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants from a sport center, in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A Venezuelan migrant puts on his shoes next to police officers during an operation by the Colombian police to evict a community of homeless Venezuelans migrants from a sport center, in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Jhon Teran (C) looks at the passports of his relatives while he sits next to other Venezuelan migrants during an operation by the Colombian police to evict them from a sport center, in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Venezuelans ride on a truck escorted by police officers during an operation by the Colombian police to evict a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants from a sport center, in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A migration officer takes pictures of Venezuelan migrants as they get off trucks before they cross to Venezuela, during an operation by the Colombian police to evict them from a sport center, at the Simon Bolivar international bridge in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Venezuelan migrants get on a truck during an operation by the Colombian police to evict them from a sport center, in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Venezuelan migrants wait on a truck during an operation by the Colombian police to evict them from a sport center, in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Venezuelans ride on the trucks escorted by police officers during an operation by the Colombian police to evict a community of homeless Venezuelan migrants from a sport center, in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A migration officer and a Colombian policeman stand in front of people queueing to try to cross into Venezuela from Colombia through the Simon Bolivar international bridge in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Colombian police officers stand in front of people queueing to try to cross into Colombia from Venezuela through Simon Bolivar international bridge in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Men carry a woman who fainted while queueing to try to cross into Venezuela from Colombia through Simon Bolivar international bridge in Cucuta, Colombia January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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CUCUTA, Colombia (Reuters) - Colombia on Wednesday evicted over 200 homeless Venezuelans who had been sleeping in a sports field in its border town of Cucuta, highlighting growing unease over an influx of migrants from the crisis-hit neighboring country.

The Venezuelans were removed at the crack of dawn from the field in a middle-class neighborhood, where they had been sleeping in makeshift tents or on cardboard boxes. A few insulted Venezuela's leftist President Nicolas Maduro as they boarded Colombian migration agency trucks, a Reuters reporter witnessed.

Most were deported to Venezuela because they did not have valid passports, although some vowed to cross back over when they got the chance.

"We left with the dream of working and escaping Nicolas Maduro's dictatorship in Venezuela, but unfortunately they're sending us back," said Jesus Millan, 45, minutes after being expelled back into Venezuela. He had been working in a car wash in Colombia.

The roughly 50 Venezuelans who did have passports would be moved on, driven by authorities some 1,480 km (920 miles) to the Ecuadorean border, Colombian authorities said.

Colombia, already home to the most Venezuelan migrants in South America, is particularly vulnerable to Venezuela's swelling crisis.

An earlier wave of those seeking to escape Venezuela's collapsing economy, sky-high inflation and food shortages saw engineers snapping up jobs in Colombia's then-burgeoning oil industry or working in multinational companies in capital Bogota.

Now, however, a growing number of poor Venezuelans are cramming onto buses to make their way to Colombian border towns, from where they try to make money to continue their journey to wealthier countries in South America.

The evictions in Cucuta came in the wake of a small anti-Venezuelan protest in the town on Sunday. Locals said their children could no longer play in parks or sports fields, and expressed fears that the migrants would turn to crime to make a living.

"We're not discriminating against anyone, but they're creating problems in residential areas," said Oscar Gerardino, an official of Colombia's Norte de Santander provincial government.

The number of Venezuelans living in Colombia jumped 62 percent in the last half of 2017 to more than 550,000, Colombia's migration authority said earlier this month.

The United Nations is willing to send more aid to Colombia to help the country cope with the arriving migrants, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on a visit to the Andean country last week.

 

(Reporting by Anggy Polanco, Writing by Alexandra Ulmer, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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