April 16th (IPS) – Colombia will Granting legal status To all the Venezuelan migrants who have fled there since 2016 to escape the economic collapse and political crisis in their country.
The A bold new policy – which would give nearly one million undocumented immigrants rights to Legal employment, healthcare, education, and Colombian banking For 10 years – driven by both sympathy and pragmatism, says Colombian President Ivan Duque.
“They’ll probably stay for more than a decade,” Duque To NPR on March 3, 2021. “So it is better … to have the opportunity to also contribute to the Colombian economy.”
The Venezuelan expats to Colombia are It is not limited to refugee camps, So they live spread across the country. Documenting and accommodating this large number of migrants – who often arrive on foot with few personal items and no valid identification – has been a challenge. Even rich countries like the United States struggle to deal with mass immigration.
But in some ways, Colombia – which itself is no stranger to political conflict and displacement – is uniquely prepared for this migration crisis.
History of the conflict
Colombia has received the brunt of mass migration from neighboring Venezuela since 2015.
Many other South American countries They closed their borders With Venezuela, Colombia offered a series of permits for two years About 700,000 Venezuelans the right of Work and access to health care Between 2017 and 2020.
Along with a new legalization plan that covers an additional million immigrants, almost all of them 1.7 million Venezuelans Those who have come to Colombia since 2015 will have some form of legal status. new Expats who are being processed legally in the next two years It will also be covered.
Colombia is not rich. But Colombians understand more than many what it means to be Eviction from your home.
It was over 8 million of Colombia’s population of 50 million Displaced people due to the ongoing civil conflict Since the 1990s. At most $ 1 million She moved to neighboring Venezuela, in search of safety and opportunities. the government Peace agreement with the guerrilla group FARC In 2016, however, suppression It did not end the violence in Colombia.
Because of this history, international organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Program have worked in Colombia for decades. today is The United Nations Refugee Agency And the International Organization for Migration Are driving A group of 73 international organizations and agencies To align their work with Colombia’s national humanitarian efforts. the group It operates in 14 states across Colombia, and provides assistance ranging from Distribution of COVID-19 hygiene kits to enroll migrant children in school.
Human networks adapt
The Colombian government also has some 50 agencies Dedicated to helping Colombians displaced by armed conflict. Now many are adapting this experience to help Venezuelan immigrants.
Since 2019, we have interviewed more than a dozen government officials, lawyers, and civil society representatives in two “ministries” or two Colombian states. Large numbers of Venezuelan immigrants: The Atlantic And the North Santander. This was working Part of a larger study On how countries manage mass migration.
In religious charity Caritas Pastoral Social SecretariatThe old director, who is part of the Catholic Diocese of Barranquilla, in Atlantico, said that the situation for immigrants today is very similar to what it was decades ago when the Colombian civil conflict reached its climax in the Atlantico region, where people walk around, not knowing anyone and Not sure what to do or where to go. Then as now, they slept in the parks and the streets.
“We actually lived it in the 1990s,” said Pastoral Social director.
At the time, the group helped displaced Colombians by fighting to find food and shelter. Now many of its clients are Venezuelans.
The non-profit organization The legal option – An umbrella organization that runs the United Nations refugee programs – with a similar story of origin.
At its start 21 years ago, employees worked in some of Colombia’s most difficult conflict areas, training nonprofits that help displaced Colombians with accounting and legal operations, among other technical jobs.
Opción Legal now offers Venezuelan immigrants free legal advice on accessing health care and Colombian education, Among other services. Using a nationwide network of 22 Colombian universities developed over many years, it is training students and professors to expand legal support programs for Venezuelan immigrants.
Problems in the future
Around 2019 80 million people worldwide – Most of them are Syrians, Venezuelans, Afghans and South Sudanese – driven from their homes due to crime, climate change, chronic poverty, war, political instability and disasters, according to the United Nations – Highest level ever. You will spend a lot Years or decades A permanent solution awaits, whether that is stability locally, returning home or finding a new country to make life.
Colombia’s new legalization plan reflects an assessment that the collapse of Venezuela is a long-term challenge and that integrating migrants is a better solution, economically and socially, than trying to deport or expel them.
Colombia is going on Internationally applauded For her humanity. But the processing Hospitals And the Schools It takes a lot of money to meet the needs of this rapidly growing and often desperate population. And most of it has to come from the international community, because Colombia does not have the money to do it alone. However, the Venezuelan migrant crisis is A. She is chronically underfunded The field of humanitarian work.
The legalization plan also threatens to stoke anti-immigrant sentiment in Colombia. Especially in the border areas, some of them Blame immigration for escalating violence – Despite the evidence showing Venezuelan migrants are more likely to be victims of crime Of the culprits.
I still have Colombia Its own internal migration problems. Dissident members of the FARC, other guerrilla groups, drug cartels and insurgencies Fighting continues over territory and resources, Displacement An additional 70,865 Colombians last year alone.
The Colombian government is betting that the United Nations and international agencies will help it achieve its ambitious goal of receiving 1.7 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
If successful, these funds would improve government services for all Colombians as well.
Lia Castillo, Liss Romero, and Lydia Sa conducted the research, documentation, and analysis for this story.
Erika FriedenlundResearch Assistant Professor Old Dominion University; Jose J. PadillaResearch Associate Professor, Old Dominion University, And the Catherine PalacioAssistant Professor and Data Analyst, Northern University
© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service