In Brief: Legal status for Venezuelans in Colombia to improve vaccine access

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Colombian President Iván Duque announces that legal status will be granted to Venezuelans in the country in Bogotá, Colombia. Photo by: Luisa Gonzalez / REUTERS

The Colombian government announced it is offering a 10-year temporary protection status to Venezuelans in the country, a move that will help facilitate access to the COVID-19 vaccine for migrants and refugees after President Iván Duque previously said that population would be excluded.

Colombia currently hosts an estimated 1.7 million Venezuelans, 56% of whom do not have regular status. The new measures announced Monday will allow the government to register all Venezuelans present in the country, give them identity cards, and gather key sociodemographic data.

Lucas Gomez, adviser to Duque on the Colombia-Venezuela border and Venezuelan migration, told Devex that the regularization will help give Venezuelans access to the Colombian health system and will provide pertinent information — such as the presence of health conditions that may make a person more susceptible to COVID-19 — informing vaccination efforts.

He said the majority of Venezuelan migrants are young, so they would be eligible for the vaccine in the later stages of Colombia’s plan.

Why it matters: Duque caused a stir when he said last year that Colombian citizens would be prioritized in national vaccination plans. There have been over 2 million COVID-19 cases in Colombia, and public health officials say that ensuring equitable access to vaccines around the world — regardless of a person’s migratory status — is key to getting the pandemic under control.

Who’s going to pay: Duque has since called for international support to help Colombia vaccinate everyone inside its borders, and the country is working with the COVAX vaccine initiative. In a statement, the International Organization for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency lauded the regularization move and called “on the international community to keep providing adequate and timely funding to ensure the success of this breakthrough commitment.”

About the author

  • Teresa Welsh

    Teresa Welsh is a Senior Reporter at Devex. She has reported from more than 10 countries and is currently based in Washington, D.C. Her coverage focuses on Latin America; U.S. foreign assistance policy; fragile states; food systems and nutrition; and refugees and migration. Prior to joining Devex, Teresa worked at McClatchy's Washington Bureau and covered foreign affairs for U.S. News and World Report. She was a reporter in Colombia, where she previously lived teaching English. Teresa earned bachelor of arts degrees in journalism and Latin American studies from the University of Wisconsin.