Venezuelan migrants will be granted temporary protection status in Colombia, President Ivan Duque announced Monday in a decision that many described as historic.
The protected status will give migrants in Colombia the right to live and work for 10 years and facilitate access to health care and legal employment opportunities.
“We hope that other countries follow our example,” Duque said at a news conference alongside UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “This step allows us to have clarity with the international community, and to call upon the international community.
Duque made the announcement after meeting Grandi, who applauded the initiative and said it “contributes to the country’s economy”.
“This initiative is an extraordinary display of humanity, commitment to human rights and pragmatism,” he said.
The measure could benefit up to 1 million Venezuelans who currently live in Colombia without legal status. The initiative applies to Venezuelans who arrived before January 2021.
Colombia has taken in more than 1.7 million Venezuelans, roughly one-third of the more than 5 million refugees who have fled the economic crisis, in Venezuela, according to the UN International Organization for Migration.
Colombia hosts the largest number of Venezuelan migrants.
The coronavirus pandemic has increased stress on Venezuelan refugees in Colombia, who have lost jobs and have been struck by poverty and hunger.