The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) condemned Venezuela on Monday for violating Colombians’ human rights during a massive deportation operation in August.
The IACHR completed a report on the humanitarian situation of the refugees and asylum seekers at the border between the two South American countries in the wake of the ongoing crisis.
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro closed the border crossing between Tachira state, Venezuela, and Norte de Santander, Colombia, on August 19, deporting over one thousand Colombians and causing 20,000 to voluntarily flee for fear of persecution.
Maduro then declared a state of emergency on August 21 and has closed further border crossings between the two nations, claiming that contraband smugglers were undermining Venezuela’s troubled economy and that Colombian paramilitary groups were out to destabilize the neighboring country’s political system.
Many people were separated from their houses and their belongings, families were divided and children were unable to go to school.
The IACHR report carried out from September 10 to 12 found that the situation at the border was critical due to the mass migration of Colombians and that many of the deportees and asylum seekers were “having difficulties getting food and obtaining access to health care services as well as being subjected to discrimination and persecution.”
The IACHR expressed grave concerns about the way Venezuela carried out the deportations of Colombians, saying that, “those individuals suffered multiple human rights violations and were subjected to collective expulsion.”
The long list of human rights violations recorded by the IACHR includes violations to “the rights to liberty and to personal security and integrity; to equality before law; to protection of honor, personal reputation, and private and family life; to protection for mothers; […] to the preservation of health and to well-being; to education; to work,” and “to protection for children.”
In the light of their findings published on Monday the Inter-American Commission urged Venezuela and Colombia to establish “mechanisms that would allow all the families separated in this context to be reunited, as well as the restitution of the property, goods and chattels of those deported and returned, or, if this is not possible, to compensate them.”
The IACHR also ordered Venezuela to put a stop to further arbitrary deportations, to protect the principle of the family unit and “to guarantee that any undocumented migrant has access to immigration proceedings that provide guarantees of due process prior to deportation.”
Venezuela was asked by the Commission to treat migrants with “human dignity” and to meet “international standards” during immigration and detention processes.
The IACHR met with approval the various measures that Colombia has put in place “to provide humanitarian assistance and to protect the rights of those affected.”
The Commission acknowledged the 15,176 people registered by the Colombian State in the Consolidated Disaster Victim’s Registry (RUD), which provides individuals with access to “accommodation, rent allowances, access to health and education services” and many other essential services.
However, they expressed their concern that individuals not registered in the RUD, or who will return to Colombia from Venezuela after the RUD is closed, will not receive adequate humanitarian attention.
In the official press release the IACHR thanked the Colombian State for their cooperation and their hospitality during the compilation of the report. However, the Venezuelan government did not respond to the IACHR’s requests and therefore the report could regrettably only be carried out on the Colombian side of the border.
Despite a meeting between the two presidents, organized with the hope of resolving the situation, Maduro has refused to reopen the border, saying that it could remain closed for six more months.