Without much support from the international community, Colombia’s migration authority has begun taking care of refugees from Venezuela who have been hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis.
How Migration is going to help the approximately 1.5 million Venezuelans through the crisis is uncertain; the international community has consistently ignored pleas for financial support and the agency has no experience in providing humanitarian aid.
Nevertheless, “special situations require special measures,” Migration said in a press release on Wednesday.
Getting refugees back into quarantine
One of the most imminent priorities is to get those Venezuelans who were evicted from their daily-pay hotels off the street after a quarantine left them penniless.
This is not just a priority for Migration, but for the entire government, which is trying to uphold a quarantine to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
The migration agency has created humanitarian corridors for those who wish to return to Venezuela.
According to Migration, some 33,000 Venezuelans have returned home since President Ivan Duque closed the border on March 14. The exodus from the neighboring country has virtually come to a halt.
Meanwhile, the migration agency is trying to organize shelter and food for those who want to stay.
Concentrating the population
In order to make sure that those staying in Colombia are quarantined, fed and safe from increasingly dangerous xenophobia, Migration and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are trying to concentrate the approximately 800,000 refugees in refugee camps in cooperation with local authorities.
At the same time, the government agency is trying to get Venezuelan migrants with a medical degree actively involved in dealing with the coronavirus crisis following the examples of Spain, Italy and Chile.
With the input of the Health Ministry, the IOM has stepped up its lobbying efforts to seek the necessary funds to secure humane living conditions for the often undocumented migrants.
So far, Migration said, this has resulted in $11.5 million in financial aid from the US government, medical assistance from China and technical assistance from Canada and Germany.
The biggest challenge, however, continues to be money. The international community’s praise for Colombia for taking in the refugees is only exceeded by its negligence in providing life-saving support.