The President of Colombia has announced that he will give protected status to nearly one million Venezuelan migrants living in Colombia.
Of the estimated 5.4 million Venezuelans who have left their country amid the political instability and an ongoing economic crisis, more than 1.7 million are living in Colombia.
In an announcement on Monday, President Ivan Duque said that those Venezuelans who illegally entered the country before 31st January will be given protected status for 10 years.
Those who register with the government can apply for temporary status, which will provide them with access to health services and better opportunities for work and a pathway to residency.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grando, who was at Duque’s side during the announcement, described the move as a “historic gesture”, “emblematic for the region, even for the whole world”.
Duque’s promise of protected status for undocumented Venezuelans followed his call for greater international support last week, which he issued following his decision to scrap plans that would have seen migrants excluded from Colombia’s mass vaccination program.
In December, Duque had declared that undocumented Venezuelan migrants would be excluded from the mass Covid-19 vaccination program expected to begin on 20th February. They were to be excluded to prevent “stampede, where everyone crosses the border to be vaccinated”.
A report, published in December last year, found that Venezuelan migrants were particularly vulnerable during the pandemic. Jacqueline Mazza, who authored the study, found that migrants and refugees from Venezuela were more vulnerable to the pandemic as they have to live with the insecurity of “informal work and precarious housing”.
Mazza noted that they were particularly affected during the lockdown in Colombia. Over 80% of Venezuelan migrants were reported to have “no form of income during the quarantine”.