Nicolo Filippo Rosso

  • People follow a path to enter Colombia illegally, near Villa del Rosario in North Santander, Colombia, one of the busiest regions for border crossings. Even though Venezuela officially closed its land border with Colombia in February 2020, around 300 clandestine crossing points remained active. The illegal border crossing in both directions has made epidemiological monitoring impossible, increasing the population's risk of contagion. Without data of people leaving and entering Colombia and people infected by Covid-19, it is hard for international agencies and NGOs to respond to the health crisis. October 9, 2018. Villa Del Rosario, Norte de Santander, Colombia.

  • People wait in line for a free meal at a church charity organization in Villa del Rosario, Colombia. Since March 2020, as a lockdown to prevent contagion was imposed in Colombia, community refectories have been closed, making it more difficult for charity organizations to reach the migrants and offer them food. June 25, 2018. Villa Del Rosario, Norte de Santander, Colombia.

  • Migrants sit in a truck at Paraguachón, Colombia's border town, heading to the central city of Maicao. August 11, 2018. Paraguachón, La Guajira, Colombia.

  • A young girl looks at the empty plastic glass she recollects the alms in, along a street of the capital city Bogotá. By June 2019, the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF) had provided attention to nearly 80,000 Venezuelan children, adolescents and families countrywide. Early in 2020, the Colombian government announced two new Special Stay Permits that would allow more than 100,000 Venezuelans to stay and work in the country and ruled that children born in the country to Venezuelan parents could acquire Colombian nationality. However, vast numbers of people remain dispossessed. Children are not guaranteed their right to health care, education, and access to food. October 31, 2018. Bogotá, Colombia.

  • Migrants crowd onto a truck at the entrance of an illegal dirt-road connecting Colombia and Venezuela in La Guajira, Colombia. The 2219 km long frontier between the two countries only counts on seven official immigration checkpoints. Venezuelan refugees are exposed to abuse, trafficking, and recruitment in no men's borderlands where illegal groups and gangs control people's movement and smuggling. July 6, 2018. Paraguachón, La Guajira, Colombia.

  • Venezuelan children hold plastic bottles filled with water while they wait in line for a free meal at a charity organization in Paraguachón, Colombia. According to UNICEF, out of the 1.8 million Venezuelans settled in Colombia, 430 thousand are children and adolescents. Migrant children are trapped in a dangerous environment and, without access to education, they are born and grow with no horizon of comparison for their condition. As the unstable environment doesn't change, the children and the adolescents I have met seem to have learned to live with a constant feeling of danger and exacerbated alertness. August 10, 2019. Paraguachón, La Guajira, Colombia.

  • Frankilina Epiayu, a Wayuu indigenous midwife, kneads the belly of a pregnant Venezuelan girl in an informal settlement in Uribia, in La Guajira department. There, no border exists for the Wayuu people, who consider themselves a unique nation, although their territory belong to different countries. Making up for the government's and the international agencies' incomplete response, midwives like Frankilina respond to emergencies and help women give birth safely in Colombia. According to the indigenous cosmogony, indigenous people in Colombia are given a place of origin corresponding to where their placenta is buried. Burying it in the earth, and after natural childbirth, midwives ensure to the children of the exodus a spiritual right to identity, even though they won't be granted legal status if the parents entered Colombia illegally. July 5, 2019. Uribia, La Guajira, Colombia.

  • Luis Arevalo, a migrant from Venezuela, sits in the back of a pickup truck, mourning his sister Luisana in Riohacha, Colombia. She died asphyxiated in a car together with a friend of hers. As it was too expensive for her family to repatriate the body to Venezuela, a local NGO paid for her burial in a private cemetery in Riohacha, La Guajira, and for her mother to travel to the funeral from Venezuela. August 17, 2018. Riohacha, La Guajira, Colombia.

  • Women mourn Luisana Arevalo. Luisiana died asphyxiated in a car together with a friend of hers in Riohacha, Colombia. As it was too expensive for her family to repatriate her body to Venezuela, a local NGO paid for her burial in a private cemetery in Riohacha, La Guajira, and for her mother to travel to the funeral from Venezuela. August 17, 2018. Riohacha, La Guajira, Colombia.

  • Police arrest a Venezuelan migrant accused of theft in Maicao, Colombia. The poverty and the precarious living conditions in the migrants' settlements and the border towns' streets push some into criminal survival strategies. Because of the pandemic, a greater social instability has hit Colombia, and with greater precarity, xenophobia has risen. Colombian citizens are concerned about migrants gathering in the streets, informal camps, and migration routes because that could contribute to spread the virus. August, 15, 2018. Maicao, La Guajira, Colombia.


Exodus A political and socio-economic crisis in Venezuela led to an outflow of 5 million migrants from the country since 2016. Colombia is the country most impacted by this exodus. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 1.8 million Venezuelans are in Colombia, of which half a million are children: a number underestimated since not everyone is registered. However, Colombia has been shuttered by decades of civil war, and endemic poverty and violence make it hard for migrants to find better conditions than those fleeing. Trapped in a dangerous environment and exposed to abuse, trafficking, and recruitment in no men’s borderlands controlled by gangs and rebel groups, some never reach their destination.
For three years, I have spent weeks and months in some of the main border areas, traveling along the migration routes with those migrants who have no money to reach a major city or the next border by bus. Following children, adolescents, and pregnant and nursing women, I have witnessed Venezuela’s collapse through the eyes of the most vulnerable migrants.
The World Food Program now warns the pandemic could provoke famines, hitting countries already suffering from poverty and hunger, like Venezuela and Colombia. The outbreak’s economic impact followed a succession of disproportionated hardships imposed on Venezuelan refugees, pushing them deeper into poverty, the main driver of exploitation and vulnerability. Finding out that day-to-day survival had become impossible, many decided to walk the journey back home, enduring the psychological trauma of returning to the intolerable conditions that had forced them to leave Venezuela. Borders have been officially closed, but hundreds of illegal crossing points remained active along the 2219km-long frontier. As Colombia has announced an economic reactivation by 2021, a new wave of people prepares to return once again. Documenting their journeys, I have often felt people walk such long distances back and forth and back again as the movement itself could give a sense of hope for a future that often is hard to imagine, in an unstable environment that doesn’t change at their destination.
To continue the project Exodus, I will travel to La Guajira’s border, in the north of the country. In the desert, since 2018, dozens of thousands of families have set up tent cities on the outskirts of indigenous towns synonymous in Colombia with extreme poverty. Without access to running water or sanitation, the odyssey of a generation begins in these settlements. Without nearby hospitals, adequate testing, and the possibility of individual isolation, people are exposed to diseases and contagion.
There, I will follow the indigenous midwife Frankilina Epiayu, a compassionate Colombian who assists in childbirth in migrants camps. Opposite to the growing xenophobia towards Venezuelans in Latin America, her service shows how the boundaries between two unsettled communities, local indigenous Wayuu and Venezuelan migrants, can blur and connect by sisterhood and solidarity. Documenting Frankilina’s dedication to helping the migrants, I will explore the first steps of a generation born at the ends of two collapsing worlds.