Cúcuta September 27, 2022 (@DefensoriaCol). Ombudsman Carlos Camargo conducted a humanitarian visit to the border post with Venezuela in the city of Cucuta to speak directly to citizens about the human rights challenges they face as relations between the two countries are restored.
While emphasizing the reactivation of trade, due to the positive impact it will have on employment and the economy of both countries, the Ombudsman considered it important to review the transit of migrants in situations of economic uncertainty, without the necessary legal documentation and in conditions of vulnerability.
As a Colombian state, it is necessary to be vigilant about what is happening “under” the border bridges and avoid human rights violations, especially human trafficking or the commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents.
“Difficult economic and social conditions, institutional indifference in some regions, the lack of a protected environment and armed conflicts generate various violations of the rights of minors. For this reason, children and adolescents must be a priority in the restoration of relations between Colombia and Venezuela,” said Carlos Camargo.
He recalled that according to the Colombian Institute for the Welfare of the Family (ICBF), there is a registry of 1,200 children and adolescents of Venezuelan nationality who are in Colombia under protection and in the framework of an administrative process for the restoration of rights.
“There is an urgent need to find an institutional solution so that minors do not remain indefinitely in foster homes or protective institutions and appropriate family reunification can be progressed, having previously verified that the appropriate conditions in terms of rights have been met to the children,” he added.
Likewise, he recalled that the rights of children and adolescents on national territory take precedence over the rights of others. In this sense, before moving on to issues of another order, it is a priority to ensure that Venezuelan minors can find their families.
The Ombudsman highlighted the importance of the Statute for the Temporary Protection of Venezuelan Migrants, which allowed, in addition to addressing the phenomenon, to provide humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan population.
He also recalled that the migration process of Venezuelan citizens is already beginning to show new dynamics and requires special attention from the governments of Colombia and Venezuela, in addition to other countries of transit and recipients of the population in human mobility. “In particular, there is an exodus to the northern part of the continent that seeks to cross the Darien Gap. Of the 134,000 migrants who have arrived in Panama this year, 69% are Venezuelans traveling in precarious economic conditions, and 15% are minors,” he said.
In a letter addressed to the Ambassador of Colombia to Venezuela, Armando Benedetti, the Ombudsman also called on all entities of the National System of Family Care to promote actions that promote the comprehensive guarantee of the rights of migrant boys, girls and adolescents found throughout the territory.
Migrant populations are doubly exposed to risks, both due to their irregular status and their vulnerability in the context of armed conflict. “The dynamics of illegal migration often involve illegal armed actors, hence the importance of emphasizing the non-use of these alternative and illegal routes to enter the country,” recalled Carlos Camargo.
The Office of the Ombudsman maintains early warnings for 16 municipalities and 4 non-municipalized areas in the border zone with Venezuela: Convention, El Carmen, Puerto Santander, Cucuta, Teorama, Tibu, Toledo and Villa del Rosario (Norte de Santander); Maicao (La Guajira); Kurumani (Cesar); Arauca, Araucita, Cravo Norte, Saravena (Arauca); Puerto Carreno (Vicada) and Inirida (Guainía). The 4 non-municipal areas warned are Cacahual, La Guadalupe, Puerto Colombia and San Felipe (Guainía)
All of them are related to the risk of violation of the human rights of the communities due to the actions of illegal armed groups and criminal organizations in the border areas.
Finally, in addition to the situation of unaccompanied Venezuelan migrant children, the Ombudsman took advantage of the visit to draw the attention of the health authorities so that the necessary protocols are established to protect the population against new outbreaks of Covid19 or any other disease.