A commitment to integration | Wilson Quarterly
The migratory phenomenon is a transcendental subject for the world and which immediately preoccupies Colombia. However, human migration is not a fleeting affair; it has long been an essential part of our nation. We have prioritized addressing the challenges and seizing the opportunities of migration since day one of our administration, when we declared an open door policy, especially towards our Venezuelan brothers and sisters.
Colombia has seen a massive influx of migrants, especially in the last decade, which has led us to implement short-term measures, but also to create the Temporary Protection Status for Venezuelan Migrants (TPSVM) , a unique regional response mechanism for longer-term needs in the face of one of the biggest migration crises in our region.
More than five million Venezuelans have fled their country due to political discontent and poverty. Colombia has welcomed more than 1.7 million of them and I am deeply committed to helping them through this upheaval in their lives.
I was inspired by the call of Pope Francis, who in the encyclical Fratelli Tutti called on world leaders to assume our fraternal responsibility towards migrants and refugees and to care for this neglected population with a sense of humanity and sincere care.
I was inspired by the call of Pope Francis, who … called on world leaders to assume our fraternal responsibility towards migrants and refugees … with a sense of humanity and genuine care.
When I became president, Migration Colombia’s calculations estimated that 218,000 Venezuelan citizens were in Colombia without permission and another 533,000 were in the process of being cleared. We did not know the names, places or social and health conditions of these migrants, but we clearly understood that they needed our help.
In the face of this situation, we adopted a coordinated response to ensure that Venezuelan migrants, who had been oppressed by a brutal regime, get the help they desperately need, while simultaneously finding opportunities for development and progress for our country. country.
The first efforts to regularize the situation of Venezuelans were carried out through the Special Residence Permit (PEP, its Spanish acronym) and the Administrative Register of Venezuelan Migrants (RAMV, its Spanish acronym). This allowed us to understand and address the immediate living conditions of migrants.
At the end of 2018, we created the National Council for Economic and Social Policy, which guarantees health, education and social inclusion services for migrants. And, in 2019, we adopted a strategy to help migrants earn legal income, helping us identify and address the barriers that hinder full socio-economic integration. In addition, we have decided to grant Colombian nationality to the children of Venezuelan migrants born in the country, rather than risking their statelessness. The measure concerns children born since August 2015, and today benefits more than 51,000 minors.
In 2020 came the Covid-19 pandemic, an invisible enemy that has struck humanity, generating a crisis in health systems around the world at the same time as great economic and social challenges. We are working to strengthen the health system, protect the most vulnerable, and preserve economic activity and jobs. And while we knew that declaring isolation mandatory and closing the borders would have difficult consequences, our priority was to protect lives.
Despite the border closure at the end of 2020, more than 18,000 Venezuelan migrants have been picked up on national roads and it has been estimated that more than 300 migrants attempt to enter the country illegally every day. Faced with this situation, we set out to create a policy that would reflect the fraternal, united and respectful spirit that we see in our Venezuelan brothers and sisters.
The Temporary protection status for Venezuelans (ETPMV in Spanish) became a reality with Decree 216 of March 1, 2021, which established a process for Venezuelans to apply for a 10-year temporary authorization. With it, we have honored our international commitment to manage migration in a safe and orderly manner, in line with the goals of the 2018 Global Compact for Migration. This progressive and unprecedented step has created a unified, comprehensive and open authorization mechanism, adapted to the specific needs of the Venezuelan migrant population who wish to remain in the country. It aims to increase legal immigration rates and integrate them effectively into the socio-economic fabric of our country.
As of May 5, 2021, migrants started registering through the Single Register of Venezuelan Migrants (RUMV, its acronym in Spanish) system, and as of October 20, we had 1.4 million people registered on the portal. Of these, 1.63 million had made an appointment for phase 2 of the biometric registration.
However, there remain challenges in the implementation of the ETPMV, the main one being to ensure more transparent coordination between national government entities and local government authorities, so that the temporary protection permit becomes a path for true integration and the guarantee of rights, which remains unsatisfied despite countless efforts.
As of August 2021, we had 383,488 Venezuelan migrants enrolled in our social security health system and we expect that number to rise to 950,000 in one year. In addition, we predict that 1.05 million migrants will be able to access vital social programs. Almost half a million migrant children and adolescents currently have access to school and our hope is to provide free education to 100% of Venezuelan students enrolled in the official education system.
Colombia’s organizational and fiscal commitment to establish and implement policies for the protection and integration of migrants has been immense. The implementation of the TSPVM requires constant collective action to develop the principle and practice of global solidarity under the guise of multilateralism.
Colombia has been a strong voice in the region. Our country has proven to the world that a middle-income economy can face migration challenges with policies that provide urgent humanitarian assistance while simultaneously establishing standardization and regulatory processes for long-term stabilization. However, we cannot do it alone.
Our country has proven to the world that a middle-income economy can face migration challenges with policies that provide urgent humanitarian assistance while simultaneously establishing normalization and regulatory processes for long-term stabilization.
We have prioritized efforts to secure funding for the needs of refugees and migrants in the region, including through our participation in the International Donor Conference on June 17, led by the Government of Canada and co-agencies. officials of the Regional Platform for Inter-Agency Cooperation (UNHCR and IOM), where commitments totaling $ 2.6 billion have been made.
Our work in welcoming and integrating Venezuelan migrants has been recognized by organizations such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations, the International Organization for Migration and the World Bank; from countries like the United States, Canada, Japan, Spain and the Vatican.
Likewise, Colombia has joined the group of Allied countries receiving Afghans who have supported the United States’ efforts there for years and who are in the process of registering and migrating to that country. We are united by humanitarian care, the protection of human and women’s rights and, of course, being with our allies when they need us.
With our actions, we have shown the world that Colombia is an example of a country open to migration in speech and in practice. We have made bold decisions and acted responsibly to comply with them. Not only have we defined a flexible and modern mechanism to streamline the entry of Venezuelan migrants into Colombia, but we are also committed to adapting our government structure to provide better services.
We call on others to follow our example and, as we did in Colombia, to manage global migration with intelligence, brotherhood, solidarity, equity and with the support of the international community.
Iván Duque Márquez is the present of the Republic of Colombia.
Cover: Venezuelans fleeing the political and economic crisis at home cross the Colombian border via the Simon Bolivar International Bridge. July 2019. Hélène Caux / UNHCR.