In 2018, Colombia received 10 600 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis, a 6% increase compared to 2017. Most of them were admitted for family reasons (6 600 permits delivered). In 2018, 523 600 permits were issued to temporary migrants, an exceptional 340% increase compared to the previous year. The main categories of admission were humanitarian (92% in 2018, all these permits were delivered to Venezuelan nationals), work (5%), studies and free mobility under the Mercosur agreement (1% each).

Throughout 2019 and in early 2020, migration and integration policy in Colombia continued to focus on the management of large inflows of Venezuelans. In January 2020 three new initiatives were implemented. The first was the issue of a “special permanent-type residence permit” (Permiso Especial de Permanencia, PEP) for those who entered Colombia before 29 November 2019 (entry certified by a stamp on their passport). An estimated 200 000 Venezuelans are expected to benefit from this measure. The second measure concerns the renewal of PEP granted to migrants who have registered in the Administrative Register of Migrants from Venezuela (Registro Administrativo de Migrantes Venezolanos – RAMV), a tool implemented from April to June of 2018 to gather more information about Venezuelan migrants. The third measure is the issue of a “special permanent-type permit for promoting formalisation” (Permiso Especial de Permanencia para el Fomento de la Formalización – PEPFF) which is a work permit for those with a formal employment offer.

As the crisis in neighbouring Venezuela continued, the issue of integration of those who left the country became more acute and Colombia set up three main strategic objectives. First, to provide and improve effective access to critical goods and services. Second, to enhance integration opportunities for the migrant population, including access to employment. Third, to provide access to basic services and respond to protection needs. Colombia has promoted access to schools for Venezuelan children and progressively increased access to higher education. Likewise, the health care system has continuously been extended to the Venezuelan population and emergency health care has continued to expand the provision of services to refugees and migrants from Venezuela.

In late 2019, the government adopted a strategy to support the migrant population from Venezuela building on five pillars: better registration and documentation; enhancing employability; supporting entrepreneurship; enhancing co-operation; and transversal issues including support for migrant groups with specific needs (women, indigenous, etc.) and support for receiving communities.

The Inter-Agency Mixed Migration Flows Group (GIFMM) continues to implement the international Refugees and Migrants Regional Plan (RMRP) in Colombia to refugees, migrants, returnees and receiving communities. This plan focuses on four key areas of intervention. The first two relate to the emergency response (direct assistance with appropriate referral mechanisms, along with prevention measures; access to documentation and international protection). The third concerns longer-term impact (better access to basic goods and services, employment and social cohesion within host communities). Finally, the plan foresees to strengthen the capacity of the Colombian government to respond to the needs of migrants and refugees at both national and local levels.

While borders were closed during the lockdown in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, a humanitarian corridor with Venezuela was established to allow those who wished to return to Venezuela to do so. As a result, the number of Venezuelan residents in Colombia declined for the first time since 2015.

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