By Devin Watkins
Jesuit Refugee Service Latin America and the Caribbean (JRS LAC) has sounded the alarm regarding the plight of Venezuelan migrants seeking entry into neighboring Colombia.
In a statement, JRS alleged that Colombian authorities have sought to prevent the irregular entry of Venezuelan migrants with an “excessive use of force, which has led to the overturning of canoes transporting them.”
The organization linked to the Society of Jesus decried the actions as “detrimental to human dignity and the protection of the fundamental rights of migrants and refugees.”
Countless irregular migrants
Recent studies show that Venezuelan immigrants to Colombia number around two million. More than half of them lack immigrant visas or residency permits.
The exodus has been fueled by Venezuela’s political, economic, and social crisis, which has been ongoing since 2015.
Respect for human rights
In its statement, JRS urged Colombian and regional authorities to put measures in place “to protect the life and human rights of all, regardless of their nationality and immigrant status, with special attention to border areas.”
The group also called for the government to apply existing mechanisms which “guarantee the right of entry” for those seeking asylum.
Living border, shared experiences
JRS said the Colombia-Venezuela border is “a living border, surrounded by a shared culture”.
The statement urged authorities to recognize this binational reality and “to protect the natural, cultural, and historical interaction that represents the identity of the inhabitants of the border region.”
JRS LAC also appealed to those who live in the area to remember their common history, “overcoming wounds and encountering one another through reconciliation and practices that promote healthy coexistence."
In addition to the difficulty of arriving in Colombia, rights groups say that, once there, many Venezuelan migrants risk being forced into armed groups or working on illegal plantations.
They also face discrimination, sexual violence, and trafficking, as well as enduring poor sanitary conditions.