Over 300 Colombian children remain separated from at least one parent after Venezuela deported more than 1,000 Colombians and thousands of others fled.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the deportations after three Venezuelan soldiers were injured in a firefight after patrolling for smugglers on August 19.
The deportation spurred the spontaneous displacement of approximately 9,000 Colombians, creating a humanitarian crisis on the Colombian side of the border, but also creating a humanitarian issue on the Venezuelan side.
The head of the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF), Cristina Plazas, said that there are 299 children in Venezuela with one parent or both in Colombia. Another 154 families remain in Venezuela with their children in Colombia.
The Institute of Family Welfare is working on behalf of the families to reunite parents with their children. “The requisite efforts will be made before the Venezuelan government to reunite families because it’s not fair to separate children from their families.”
The Director of Family Welfare gave remarks on Tuesday that reflected the confusion and fear that the many of the deported face. She felt the need to reassure families living in the shelters of her organizations mission to assist them.
“We are working with the families because many of them are scared because they threatened them, telling them we were going to take the kids away. To all of them we want to give them peace of mind. All we want is to support them and to achieve familiar reunification,” Plazas reassured.
In an interview with Caracol Radio, Plazas admonished the governor of Venezuela’s Tachira border state for failing to meet with Colombian authorities on five separate occasion in order to address the issue of family reunification.
Surveying the shelters in Cucuta and Villa del Rosario, Plazas reported that 890 children and adolescents are taking refuge, 332 of which are children under 5 years of age.
Plazas acknowledge the inherent dangers children face while staying in a shelter, urging parents in the shelters to take precaution.
“Children must always be accompanied by their parents, in the surrounding zones they should always be with an adult. It is fundamental that if parents go out they leave them with a person from Family Welfare. We are working with all families in these issues to reinforce security.”