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12 January 2021 – Colombia

Venezuelan Nationals Carrying an Unconscious Woman as They Try to Enter Colombia, (Schneyder Mendoza, AFP,
Venezuelan Nationals Carrying an Unconscious Woman as They Try to Enter Colombia, (Schneyder Mendoza, AFP, "Alarm at Colombia Plan to Exclude Migrants from Coronavirus Vaccine," The Guardian, 22 December 2020,

Colombia is currently under a state of emergency, which has been extended until 28 February 2021. Decree 1550 implementing the state of emergency includes additional restrictions like the closure of land and river borders with Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, Peru, and Brazil. Colombia’s immigration authority, Migración Colombia, reported in late 2020 that despite the emergency measures there has been an increase in the number of people entering Colombia from Venezuela. According to Migración Colombia’s latest published data, there are approximately 1.7 million Venezuelan citizens in the country.

In late December, President Ivan Duque announced the government’s intention not to vaccinate undocumented non-nationals–including hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan refugees–within the country’s borders. According to Duque’s comments in a local radio interview on 21 December, only Venezuelans who have dual nationality or formal migratory status will have access to the vaccine when it is eventually rolled out. Justifying this decision in terms of prioritising Colombian nationals, Duque stated, “We would have calls to stampede the border as everyone crosses asking for a vaccine.”

Duque’s announcement prompted criticism from humanitarian agencies and rights groups. In a statement condemning the government’s intended policy, Mercy Corps said, “Vaccines will only curb the pandemic if everyone can get them. Leaving Venezuelans out puts them and their Colombian neighbours at risk. Venezuelans, especially those who are undocumented, are among the most vulnerable and hardest hit by the economic effects of the pandemic. Many have lost their only source of income and been forced to live in crowded shelters or on the streets, making them even more susceptible to catching and spreading the virus. People who are most at-risk and vulnerable should be prioritized regardless of nationality or immigration status.”

In the Global Detention Project’s latest report about Colombia, published in December 2020, we detail how Colombia has become an important transit point for migrants and asylum seekers from across the Americas as well as from other parts of the world. For the past several years, it has also been a key destination for Venezuelans fleeing the turmoil in their country. During 2010-2014, a national plan was implemented to “strengthen immigration control in Colombia” and in 2013 the country opened its first temporary immigration holding facilities (“salas transitorias de migración”). During the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit Colombia severely, large numbers of Venezuelans who had lost their jobs became stranded in makeshift camps located in border zones when they sought to return home.

For more information, visit the GDP’s Colombia page at: