The number of Venezuelans seeking asylum in the United States has boomed since the country was wracked by a wave of anti-government protests last year.
The South American country first reached the list of the top 10 asylum-seeking nations in February 2014, as a bloody, months-long street protest movement seeking to oust the socialist administration kicked off.
The most recent data from Citizenship and Immigration Services show that in June 2015, Venezuela climbed to fifth place among countries submitting asylum requests, with 590 applications submitted to the U.S. during that month. Only citizens of China, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador submitted more requests.
“Definitely, last year protests and its consequences, including detentions and tortures, have resulted in more Venezuelans fleeing the country,”according to Julio Henríquez, Director of NGO Refugee Freedom Program.
“It is impressive how in 10 years, Venezuelans went from being tourists in the United States to victims of political persecution,” he stressed, El Universal reports.
It’s unclear how many Venezuelans will be granted asylum. It usually takes a year or two to schedule a first interview with immigration officials.