By George Gill Angel Eye
Bogota/Caracas, (EFE).- The reopening of the border is a relief for some 2.5 million Venezuelans who have fled to Colombia because of the crisis, many of whom received temporary protection status and will now have more benefits to maintain them. relationship with their country.
However, migration dynamics are no longer the same as before the pandemic and the reopening of borders scheduled for September 26 brings new challenges.
One of these is to guarantee the safety and human rights of migrants at borders with security problems, as well as to clarify measures to address the challenges posed by the increasing passage of Venezuelans through the impenetrable Darien Gap on the Colombian-Panamanian border. , en route to the United States
The border with Venezuela was closed in 2015 by the government of Nicolás Maduro under the pretext of fighting Colombian criminal cartels, and reopened to people in transit in 2016.
Following the severance of relations ordered by Maduro on February 23, 2019, the movement of people was again suspended, when opposition leader Juan Guaido attempted to enter Cucuta at the head of an aid convoy.
This led to illegal steps, people transiting through the so-called trails, although pedestrian movement over the Simón Bolívar International Bridge was normalized last year.
The relief is mainly felt by border residents, pendulum migrants who move between the two countries and for whom the closure of the road seven years ago was a problem they had to cope with.
One of them was Eduardo Casanova, who moved between Cucuta, the capital of the Colombian department of Norte de Santander, and Rubio, a city in the Venezuelan state of Tachira.
“We hope it will become a reality, we have waited so long that we will wait a little,” Casanova, who must cross the border on foot, from Cucuta to San Antonio del Tachira, Efe, and find a transport that will take him to Rubio. Jabe, 30 km from the border town.
Casanova does not hide his enthusiasm and sees with optimism the decisions taken by Maduro and his Colombian counterpart Gustavo Petro to reopen the border “for the good of all”.
“We live in Cucuta, but we constantly go to Rubio and the free passage will feel very good, without any obstacles, calmly, confidently, which will be the best for everyone,” he said.
What about established immigrants in Colombia?
The most recent figures from Colombia Migration, including a cut from last June, indicate that there are 2,477,588 Venezuelans in the country, of which 333,806 have been regularized; 617,069, authorized to remain; 1,231,675, in process of adoption of Provisional Protection Statutes, and 295,038 irregular.
The statute allows Venezuelans to access social benefits from the Colombian state, including vaccination against Covid-19 or obtaining a driver’s license as well as easier access to employment contracts or banking services.
For Dona Cabrera, migration specialist at the Pontificia Universidad Xaveriana in Bogotá, Colombia, “there is an organization so that those who have agreed to the Temporary Protection Statute can develop their life project in the country, overcoming the existing barriers to access services”.
The expert recalled that Petro said he was going to maintain immigrant integration policies and that his government would make some processes more flexible, such as the validation of university degrees to facilitate their entry into the labor market.
“I think that in this ideological and discursive context, we have multiple working possibilities (…) It’s a panorama that continues to encourage us to facilitate this integration challenge,” he says.
The Darien Challenge
According to the Colombian Ombudsman, in the first eight months of the year, 102,067 people crossed the Darien to North America, of which 68,575, 67% were Venezuelans.
For Cabrera, Colombia and Venezuela must unite to face this problem as a regional problem, since now “Venezuelan migration flows are redefined based on the social, economic, political and migrant regularization conditions in the countries of the region.”
“The normalization of relations between Colombia and Venezuela may affect the guarantee that those here have advanced in their integration process (…) but the perception that Joe Biden is with the government, with a more open system for immigration from Venezuela (…) is through Darien has increased its crossing,” he explains.
In this sense, Cabrera considers that the normalization of relations “may have an impact on the growth of this transit”, but clarifies that it is not the only factor, nor the most decisive, and “it must be analyzed with other measures. Colombia and other countries in the region.
Thus, the full reopening of the border and eventual normalization of transit in the coming months will mainly ease the lives of migrants.
It will examine cooperation between the two countries, guaranteeing respect for the human rights of those who cross border crossings and those who pass through Colombia on their way to North America.
Web version: Juanque Ochoa
entrance Colombian-Venezuelan border reopens, relief for migrants was first published EFE News.