By Jorge Gil Angel I
Bogotá/Caracas, (EFE).- The full reopening of the border is a relief for the nearly 2.5 million Venezuelans who have fled to Colombia due to the crisis, many of whom have been granted temporary protection status and they will now have more facilities to maintain links with their country.
However, the migratory dynamics are no longer the same as before the pandemic and the reopening of the borders, scheduled for September 26, brings with it new challenges.
One of them is to guarantee the safety and human rights of migrants on a border with security problems, as well as to articulate actions to face the challenge posed by the increasing passage of Venezuelans through the inhospitable Darién 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 against Colombian criminal gangs and was reopened for the transit of people in 2016.
The movement of people was again suspended after the severance of relations ordered by Maduro on February 23, 2019, when opposition leader Juan Guaidó tried to enter from Cúcuta leading an aid caravan.
This has led to the transit of people through illegal marches, the so-called footpaths, although last year pedestrian traffic was normalized on the Simón Bolívar International Bridge.
The relief is felt mainly by the inhabitants of the border, commuters who move between the two countries and for whom the closure of the passage of vehicles seven years ago was a problem to which they had to adapt.
One of them is Eduardo Casanova, who moves between Cúcuta, capital of the Colombian department of Norte de Santander, and Rubio, a town in the Venezuelan state of Táchira.
“We hope it will be a reality, we have waited so long that we will wait a bit,” said Efe Casanova, who has to cross the border on foot from Cúcuta to San Antonio del Táchira and look for transport there. which will take him to Rubio, 30 kilometers 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 Cúcuta, but we constantly go to Rubio and free passage would seem very good, without any obstacles, calmly, confidently, which would be best for everyone,” he says.
What will happen to migrants established in Colombia?
The most recent figures from Colombia Migration, with a drop until last June, indicate that there are 2,477,588 Venezuelans in the country, of whom 333,806 are regularized; 617,069, allowed to stay; 1,231,675 are in the process of accepting temporary protected status, and 295,038 are in an irregular situation.
The status allows Venezuelans who claim it to access social benefits from the Colombian state, including vaccination against covid-19 or obtaining a driving license, as well as easier access to contracts. work or banking services.
For Donna Cabrera, migration specialist at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia has “an organization so that people who have accepted temporary protection status can develop their life project in the country by overcoming the barriers that exist to access services.
The expert recalls that Petro has declared that he will maintain the migration integration policy and that his government will relax certain processes, such as the validation of university diplomas to facilitate their entry into the labor market.
“I think that in this normative and discursive context, we have a series of possibilities of work (…) It is a panorama that continues to be encouraging to facilitate this challenge of integration”, he says.
The Darien Challenge
In the first eight months of the year, 102,067 people crossed the Darien to North America, of which 68,575, 67%, were Venezuelans, according to the Colombian mediator.
For Cabrera, Colombia and Venezuela must unite to face this problem as a regional problem, since now “the migratory flow of Venezuelans is redefined according to the conditions of social, economic, political and migratory regularization in the countries of the region”.
“The normalization of relations between Colombia and Venezuela can have an impact in ensuring that those who are here advance in their integration processes (…) but the perception that there is with the government of Joe Biden, with measures more open to migration from Venezuela (…) it has increased its crossing of the Darien”, he explains.
In this sense, Cabrera considers that the normalization of relations “can have an impact on increasing this transit”, but specifies that it is not the only factor, nor the most decisive, and “it must be analyzed with d other measurements from Colombia and other countries in the region.
Thus, the total reopening of the border and the eventual normalization of transit in the coming months will make life easier for commuters, mainly.
It will also test cooperation between the two countries, ensuring respect for the human rights of those crossing borders and those transiting through Colombia en route to North America.
Web edition: JuanK Ochoa
the entrance The reopening of the Colombia-Venezuela border, a relief for migrants was first published in EFE News.