Colombia will regularize nearly a million undocumented migrants who have arrived in the country to flee the crisis in neighboring Venezuela, President Ivan Duque announced on Monday. Colombia is the main destination for Venezuelan refugees: around 1.7 million of them are there, more than half (56%) of whom are undocumented.
We launched the # Protection status temporary for Venezuelan migrants, with the aim of providing care to those fleeing the dictatorship. This mechanism allows us to have information to grant them immigrant status and, in 10 years, the possibility of a resident visa. pic.twitter.com/ei1L0W9ESz
– Iván Duque 🇨🇴 (@IvanDuque) February 9, 2021
The Colombian authorities will create a “temporary protection status” for Venezuelans and launch “a process of regularization of these migrants who are in our country”, announced President Ivan Duque in a joint declaration in Bogota with the United Nations High Commissioner United for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
A longer-term solution
According to the president, Venezuelans will be granted temporary protection status for ten years, during which they can apply for a resident visa if they decide to stay in the country. Those who enter on a regular basis for the next two years will have the same policy applied.
For Ronal Rodriguez, researcher at the Observatory of Venezuela at the University of Rosario, the protection of undocumented immigrants “is a very daring measure”.
“This is no longer a short-term solution,” he said, stressing that “until very recently the government discourse was based on taking temporary measures, with the view that everything would be resolved when the regime of Nicolás Maduro would fall ”.
A population vulnerable to Covid-19
The announcement comes after President Duque was severely criticized in December for his intention to exclude undocumented migrants from the mass vaccination campaign against the coronavirus which is due to begin on February 20 in Colombia. The president backed down and decided to ask for international aid to vaccinate these illegal migrants.
The UNHCR chief recalled that the Venezuelan population in Colombia is particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 because “working massively in the informal sector and facing situations of abuse, exploitation and discrimination”.
Colombia and Venezuela, which no longer maintain diplomatic relations, share a porous 2,200 km border, closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic.