Colombia’s Support for Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees: President Petro reaffirms commitment to integration, but continued progress requires more international support
There are over six million Venezuelan migrants and refugees globally, more than 1.8 million living in neighboring Colombia. These individuals have fled a country suffering from years of economic hardship and political strife. And still today, the situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate leading to projections that emigration will continue, with Colombia receiving an outsized proportion of migrants. Just this year, over 753,000 Venezuelans have left home.
Street art graffiti on a wall in the street of Medellin, Colombia - March 16, 2019 - Title translation - We are all migrants (Photo: Streetflash / Depositphotos.com)
Distinct from most migrant and refugee stories in recent years, Colombia has responded to this influx with a suite of policies aimed at integrating Venezuelans, rather than deterring them. This has been roundly welcomed by the global migrant and refugee protection communities, which now wait in hope for signs that the Colombia model will not only succeed but prove replicable elsewhere.
However, Colombia’s migration and refugee policy, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has rightfully lauded as, “the most important humanitarian gesture” in decades, is facing challenges from all sides. Recent years of escalating border violence, growing poverty and food insecurity, strained social systems, domestic discontent, and heightened xenophobia—all aggravated by the global pandemic and an unprecedented economic shock—have given rise to a new constellation of hardship.
While Colombia has remained committed to its integration policy, it has not received adequate international funding. As the new Petro administration settles in, international support is urgently needed both to enable Colombia’s sustained commitment to Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and to signal to the world that such a rights-based act of solidarity does not only rely on national efforts but will also garner international backing.
This policy brief explores the commendable policy efforts made by successive Colombia administrations to pursue economic and social integration of Venezuelan migrants and refugees in the face of crisis and calls for the international community to increase its financial support for Colombia’s response to the Venezuelan migration situation.
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