A brief project description
The crisis in Venezuela has forced more that five million of its inhabitants to flee. Almost two million ended up in Colombia. To face this extraordinary situation while in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Colombian Government has established a 6-point plan. This initiative focuses on protecting the vulnerable migrant population from the challenges arising from their situation by facilitating their incorporation into the social fabric of the country.
It was initiated in March 2020 and is ongoing. The project will last as long as it is needed by its target population.
What are the goals/aims of the project in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Colombian Government has taken decisions aimed at protecting its population from the risks posed by COVID-19. With the 6-point plan, Colombia seeks to broaden these measures by including into its beneficiaries refugees and migrants coming from Venezuela. This includes free access to health services (related to COVID-19), establishing humanitarian corridors at the border, adapting cooperation programs to their needs, focusing the assistance in high-risk areas and providing special protection to the most vulnerable groups, all of this while also improving the coordinated action among diverse actors such as local governments, national entities and international and humanitarian partners (UN agencies and NGOs).
Were there elements that facilitated the implementation of the project?
Since the declaratory of the Economic, Social and Ecological State of Emergency (March 17th), issued by the President of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez, national and local authorities had to set out measures to help Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
As an example, the Ministry of Housing, City and Territory adopted Decree 579 which suspends evictions until June 30, 2020. Rents with daily or weekly payments, or any other fraction of less than one month, are included. This measure covers all persons living in Colombia regardless of their nationality.
Likewise, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection issued guidelines for the prevention, detection, and management of COVID-19 cases among the migrant population that the competent entities must follow. Healthcare services are available to all migrants and refugees.
With regards to the international cooperation, there is already a Plan to cover the protection, humanitarian assistance and social and economic inclusion needs of the Venezuelan refugees and migrants, namely the Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMPR 2020). This Plan is the main tool to funnel international technical and financial cooperation, which is then coordinated by UN agencies and some NGOs. Diverse topics are included in the RMPR: health, education, food security, protection, economic inclusion, etc.
The COVID-19 pandemic created a significant challenge to provide aid to refugees and migrants; in consequence, the RMPR was later revised in order to adapt its humanitarian actions to the current context. These actions aligned to national and local priorities.
Main Activities of the Good Practice
1. Responsible border management: The Colombia-Venezuela border was closed due to the epidemiological risk posed by mass gatherings and the lack of reliable information about the health situation in Venezuela. In that sense, COVID-19 biosecurity protocol complying humanitarian corridors were established to help Venezuelans who want to return to their country.
2. Access to health services: Treatment to potential and confirmed COVID-19 cases in migrant refugee population is the same given to Colombians. In case of uninsured migrants who hold the Special Permanence Permit (PEP), they can enroll to any Health Promotion Agency (EPS). Migrants with irregular status will receive attention through emergency mechanisms offered by local authorities.
3. Adaptation of cooperation programs for refugees and migrants: Cash-based programs for housing and food purposes, WASH assistance and adaptation of health and shelter services were strengthened. Previous programs are coordinated by the Interagency Group for Mixed Migration Flows(GIFMM).
4. Attention to vulnerable migrant and refugee population: Enrollment of vulnerable Venezuelans to governmental assistance initiatives such as "Solidarity Income Program" and "School Feeding Program". Delivery of food kits is also included.
5. Focusing programs on high-impact areas: Operational capabilities in the border department of La Guajira, Norte de Santander and Araucu were improved.
6. Greater coordination and information: National Government, local entities and humanitarian actors work together to coordinate and implement measures to allow vulnerable migrants access to humanitarian attention.