Colombia announced the decision to grant ten-year temporary protection status to the 1.7 million displaced Venezuelans living in the country, including nearly one million people who currently don’t possess any legal status. The UN Refugee agency (UNHCR) welcomed the announcement, calling it the most important humanitarian gesture in the region for decades.

The 1.7 million displaced Venezuelans who are currently living in Colombia will be granted temporary protection status valid for ten years, president Ivan Dunque announced. The move will regularise the stay of nearly one million Venezuelans residing in the country without legal status and further grant more extensive rights to about 760,000 Venezuelans who already have protection status but were required to regularly renew it. The temporary protection status entitles its beneficiaries to legally work in Colombia, to move freely and to access health care.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who was visiting Colombia, praised the step as “a model of pragmatism and humanity” being an “example for the region and the rest of the world” and stated: “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”.

According to UNHCR, about 5 million Venezuelans have left the country following the politically induced economic crisis which has left large parts of the population in destitution. About 90 per cent of Venezuela’s population live in poverty and in 2020, the inflation rate was at 3,700 per cent. Approximately one third of Venezuelans who left the country are currently in Colombia. Last year, tens of thousands returned home during over five months of coronavirus lockdown that deprived them of their economic livelihood. However, Colombian authorities predict many are likely to return as the economy recovers, and more even might arrive. With the newly announced measures, the government wants to foster their integration into the economic life in Colombia.

For further information:

Photo: (CC) Mark Koester, July 2013

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.