· This process marks a milestone in the history of migration policy in Latin America, President Duque said.
· “By taking this momentous and historic step in Latin America, we hope that other countries will follow our example of having temporary protected status in this situation,” he said.
· He called “for all the countries of the world to reflect on the cause of this phenomenon” since “one thing is fraternal attention to the migrant,” but also “we have to reflect on how we will end the dictatorship in Venezuela.”
The President of the Republic, Iván Duque Márquez, announced on Monday feb 8th, the creation of a Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelan migrants, in order to regularize the situation of almost one million migrants, out of the total of 1.8 million Venezuelan citizens in the country.
The announcement was made by the President from the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, following a meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi who has been visiting the country since last weekend.
“We make public our country’s decision to create a Temporary Protected Status in Colombia, which allows us to regularize migrants who are in our country,” he said.
The President spoke to a group of ambassadors led by the Vatican Nuncio, Archbishop Luis Mariano Montemayor, dean of the Diplomatic Corps accredited in Colombia.
He warned that the Venezuelan migration crisis already surpasses that of Syria, which was considered the most serious in the world, and “there are more than 6 million Venezuelan brothers who have left their country,” due to economic, political and social problems.
“It hurts us to see this circumstance. And we’ve seen Colombia receive about 30% of Venezuela’s total migrants on its territory,” he said, and assured that the decision is based on a sense of fraternity.
President Duque noted that Colombia “has received nearly 1.8 million migrants, and clearly we can conclude that more than 52% are undocumented migrants in our territory.”
“We have made a titanic effort as a country to regularize approximately 800,000 Venezuelan brothers and sisters, through temporary immigration permits,” he said.
However, he emphasized that nearly one million Venezuelan migrants are in Colombia without knowing the slightest information about their conditions.
“And that circumstance is very adverse, because it does not allow us to have a clear social policy, it does not allow us to have a clear policy on security and does not allow us to accompany them in the circumstances they suffer,” he said.
He noted that in the face of these circumstances and the fact that undocumented migrants go to the health system, creating great costs, “we have to take action, but not actions based on fear or rejection.”
He also announced the creation of a Single Migrant Register, aimed at addressing the crisis.
President Duque specified those in the country with temporary permits will not have to process new documents, while those who are undocumented “will have a roadmap to such regularization, which implies a clear and accurate record of their names, their ages, their surnames, places of residence, their socio-economic conditions and, of course, they will also be in a biometric register.”
The latter will have certification of temporary protection and also “the possibility of having much more transparent access” in the relationship with the State.
President Duque emphasized that this process marks a milestone in the history of migration policy in Colombia and Latin America.
He noted that the process “has benefits of all kinds. On the one hand, it has national security benefits,” such as the possibility of identifying perpetrators of illegal acts, and also in humanitarian terms, such as the possibility of participating in equal rights.
He stressed that temporary protected status ensures that “once the registration period has been completed, those not properly registered will be subject to deportation.”
Regarding border crossings, he commented that “this closes the door to those who intend to reach our country through illegal routes and access a process of regularization by illegal means.”
“As we take this momentous and historic step in Latin America, we hope that other countries will follow our example of having temporary protected status from this situation,” he said.
President Duque said that this process will also allow for greater clarity in the face of requests for international aid for the migrant population.
Finally, after quoting pope Francis’s words in the encyclical Fratelli Tutti, he called for migrants to “be cared for with a sense of humanitarian and responsibility, of genuine attention.”
And he called “for all the countries of the world to reflect on the cause of this phenomenon” since “one thing is fraternal attention to the migrant.
Attending the event was also the UN Representative in Colombia Jessica Faieta, U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg and European Union Ambassador Patricia Llombart, among other diplomats.