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Colombia to legalize undocumented Venezuela migrants

Colombia to legalize undocumented Venezuela migrants

Colombia to legalize undocumented Venezuela migrants

Colombia said on Monday it will register hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants and refugees currently in the country without papers, in a bid to provide them with legal residence permits and facilitate their access to health care and legal employment opportunities.

President Ivan Duque told a room full of ambassadors and diplomats in Bogota that through a new temporary protection statute, Venezuelan migrants who are in the country illegally will be eligible for 10-year residence permits, while migrants who are currently on temporary residence will be able to extend their stay.

The new measure could benefit up to one million Venezuelan citizens who are currently living in Colombia without proper papers, as well as hundreds of thousands who need to extend temporary visas.

President Duque announced the protection measure in a stately government palace in the capital while standing with Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Grandi said the new policy would improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of impoverished people and called it an “extraordinary gesture” of humanity, pragmatism and commitment to human rights.

Colombia’s government estimates that 1.8 million Venezuelans are currently living in the country, and that 55% of them don’t have proper residence papers.

Most have arrived since 2015 to escape hyperinflation, food shortages and an increasingly authoritarian government.

According to the United Nations, there are 4.7 million Venezuelan migrants and other refugees in other Latin American countries after fleeing the economic collapse and political divide in their homeland.

Colombia is home to more than a third of them.

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