Land of opportunity

Colombia seeks opportunity from Venezuelan migrant crisis.

In February 2021, the Colombian government offered a ten-year temporary protection status to the almost two million Venezuelan refugees in its territory.

President Iván Duque’s move is mostly a pragmatic solution to reduce the levels of violence in the border regions between Colombia and Venezuela. The perspective of having two million refugee migrants in legal, financial and social limbo was a threat to Colombia at a time when regime change in Venezuela in the near future seems unlikely.

An immigration official in the Colombian Presidency commented, “The Government has been thinking about how to turn the issue of Venezuelan migration into an opportunity for development. It was clear that migrants were going to enter the country legally or illegally, so closing the borders would not be useful. The ten-year system is designed to give Venezuelans enough time to settle, find a job, get a visa and integrate into society.”

“The Government has been thinking about how to turn the issue of Venezuelan migration into an opportunity for development.”

Immigration official, Colombian Presidency

Granting health services to Venezuelan refugees amid the struggles of a global pandemic will help the government to better control the spread of the virus. Offering schooling to child migrants is also seen as a way to retain future talent. Furthermore, Venezuelan migrants will have better access to jobs, making them less dependent on humanitarian aid and contributing through taxes and entrepreneurship to the recovery of the Colombian economy which has been severely impacted by COVID-19.

President Duque will hardly benefit from this measure, as Venezuelan migrants will not be granted voting rights and the decision is not considered very popular among his conservative voter base.

One political analyst in Colombia believes Duque just wants a workable solution, at any political cost. “I do not believe Duque will be running for re-election. First, because apparently Duque is exhausted and even medicated, and second, because he is very unpopular. Third, because Duque no longer even has the support of his own party.”

Bureaucracy surrounding the regularisation process is expected to be complex and there is still a high level of uncertainty as to how it will be carried out. Migration Colombia, a small agency of the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will deal with awarding legal status to Venezuelan migrants and it is likely that it will be overburdened by the task.

“Peru are also reviewing their migration policies … [and] Biden recently granted temporary protected status to Venezuelans in U.S. who fled the country’s turmoil.”

Political analyst, Colombia

Finally, some other countries are also taking action to alleviate the situation, the political analyst summarised, “Peru are also reviewing their migration policies to make the requirements more flexible and to think about a regularisation process. It is also a good sign what is happening in the US – Biden recently granted temporary protected status to Venezuelans in U.S. who fled the country’s turmoil.”

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