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But then they find they are forced to work long hours with little or no pay, are not free to leave the bar they work in, and may be trapped by debts owed to the agents who brought them across the border.

Maria, 26, says she had no choice but to resort to prostitution, putting dreams of being a television host on hold and leaving behind her young children, husband and sick mother.

A short drive from Santa Fe, 25-year-old Dorian from Venezuela is also looking to get his first client of the day.

Standing against a tree in Bogota’s Lourdes Park, under the imposing shadow of the square’s gothic cathedral, he and seven other men are also casualties of the crisis in Venezuela.

She cited the case of 11 Venezuelan women trapped in a dingy bar in Colombia’s northern city of Bucaramanga.

At first, the women were allowed to come and go as they pleased, traveling to and fro between Colombia and Venezuela.

This means the chances of trafficked victims being detected and getting help are almost non-existent, campaigners say.

The increasing number of Venezuelan sex workers in Colombia and the plight they face has caught the attention of the country’s constitutional court.

Dorian says he left Venezuela six months ago, after a close friend was shot dead by gang members on his way home from a party. I knew then that I had to flee, that I was in danger,” said Dorian, dressed in tight white trousers.

But in February, the bar owner seized their documents, withheld their wages, and prevented them from leaving the bar, Suarez said.

“That’s slavery,” said Suarez, who has visited the bar.

As a humanitarian and political crisis in neighboring Venezuela deepens, Maria is one of growing numbers of Venezuelan women working in bars and brothels across Colombia.

There are around 4,500 Venezuelan sex workers in Colombia, some working in the capital, others in Caribbean tourist resorts and even in far-flung Amazon villages near the Brazilian border, according to ASMUBULI, a Colombian sex workers association.

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