Migrants and refugees in Colombia find themselves in a particularly vulnerable situation due to the Covid-19 crisis and the measures taken by the government, including confinement and border closures. Many have lost their homes and been left on the street as they are not able to afford rent. UNHCR has urged the country to adopt measures to support all vulnerable populations during the pandemic. However, of the 33 emergency decrees issued by the government to date as a consequence of the pandemic, none of them mention support for migrants. The GDP has been unable to find any reports indicating the measures taken to assist migrants and asylum seekers in detention.
It is likely that people arrested for immigraiton reasons are held in prisons or police stations. Colombia’s President Ivan Duque announced the suspension of visits to all of the country’s 132 prisons until adequate measures are put in place to ensure that Covid-19 does not spread within prisons. On 25 March 2020, the “National Carceral Movement” denounced the use of firearms and tear gas by the prison administration in response to a peaceful protest. The group of prisoners reports that 39 detainees were injured. The Ministry of Justice subsequently decided that 10,850 particularly vulnerable prisoners would be released and placed under “transitory house arrest” to mitigate the risk of infection. Prisoners that will be allowed to leave are those older than 60, nursing mothers, severely ill inmates and prisoners with sentences lower than five years who have served the obligatory three-firth of their sentence, but were never released.
- R. J. Angarita, “Se suspenden las visitas a todas las carceles del pais,” LaFM, 12 March 2020, www.lafm.com.co/colombia/se-suspenden-las-visitas-todas-las-carceles-del-pais
- National Carceral Movement, “INPEC arremete violentamente contra población carcelaria de Cucuta,” 25 March 2020, https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2803453063079689&id=884072338351114
- A. Alsema, “Colombia to Release More Than 10,000 Inmates from Prison Over Coronavirus Fears,” Colombia Reports, 31 March 2020, https://bit.ly/3dSAM1R
- S. P. N. Montoya, “Cómo están viviendo los migrantes venezolanos la pandemia del coronavirus?” Agencia Andalou, 25 March 2020, https://bit.ly/2UVotJi
- M. Palomares, “Y quien se hace cargo de los venezolanos?,” Proyecto Migracion Venezuela, 2 April 2020, https://bit.ly/3bIIdGI
- Global Detention Project, “Immigration Detention in Colombia,” https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/americas/colombia