Feb 8, 2021 - World

Colombia to offer temporary protective status to Venezuelan migrants

Photo of Venezuelan migrants walking into an enclosed area with belongings

The border between Colombia and Venezuela in Paraguachon, Colombia. Photo: Guillermo Legaria via Getty Images

Colombia will provide temporary protective status to undocumented Venezuelan migrants, President Ivan Duque said Monday in a joint announcement with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

Why it matters: For years, Colombia has seen an influx of people fleeing economic and political turmoil in Venezuela. More than half of the 1.7 million Venezuelans in Colombia are undocumented.

Details: The new protections will allow migrants to work legally in Colombia and grant 10-year residence permits.

  • Migrants who entered Colombia before Jan. 31 are eligible, as are migrants who legally enter Colombia during the first two years of the new policy.
  • Migrants who currently have temporary residence status will also be able to extend their stay.
  • Those who do not register under the new status may eventually face deportation.

What they're saying: "We need to take action," Duque said at the press conference, per Reuters. "This process marks a milestone in Colombia’s migration policies."

  • Duque also called on the international community to increase funding to help vaccinate migrants against the coronavirus.
  • The UN's Grandi called Colombia's move an "example to the region and world."
  • "It is a life-changing gesture for the 1.7 million displaced Venezuelans who will now benefit from added protection, security and stability while they are away from home,” Grandi added.

The big picture: The Venezuelan population in Colombia fell more than 2% last year, per Reuters. Tens of thousands returned to Venezuela after the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the informal work sector.

  • Colombian officials believe that many will return, bringing others with them, as the economy recovers, Reuters reported.
  • More than five million people have left Venezuela since 2015 — "one of the largest displacement crisis in the world," according to the United Nations.
Go deeper