Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants

Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants
© Getty Images

The Colombian foreign minister, during a visit to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, urged the United States and the international community to send more aid to help with the surge of migrants fleeing Venezuela. 

At an Atlantic Council meeting, Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Holmes Trujillo highlighted the need for aid to help deal with the roughly 1.5 million Venezuelan migrants that have arrived in the neighboring country over the past two years. He said the international community can help by funding education services for migrants and providing more humanitarian aid.   

“This is attending a city larger than Cartegena from one day to the other. That is a huge challenge that we are facing,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

He added that it is “difficult to say” how many Venezuelan migrants Colombia will be able to take but that his country will continue the open door policy that has allowed millions to flee the crisis across the border.    

Since 2016, Colombia has kept the border open for migrants and worked to integrate them. Last year, authorities issued 400,000 temporary residence permits to Venezuelan migrants and a 2017 decree allowed all foreign children to study in Colombian primary schools.

Democratic lawmakers have voiced support for Colombia's approach to migration, as the U.S. also deals with a rise in migrants from Central America via its southern border with Mexico.

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPaul blocks Senate vote on House-passed Syria resolution House to vote on resolution condemning Trump's Syria pullback Rand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter MORE (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, traveled to the Colombian border city of Cúcuta last week to see the crisis firsthand and commend Colombia for taking in migrants. He also called for more support from the international community. 

“Colombia is doing its best to wrestle with a refugee crisis of an unprecedented magnitude in the Western hemisphere, but the world must urgently expand its assistance,” Menendez said.

In the U.S., Venezuelan asylum seekers make up the largest group of asylum applicants, numbering nearly 30,000 applications from Venezuelans in 2018 according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Trump administration has simultaneously taken steps to put more restrictions on the asylum system and voiced interest in providing Venezuelan migrants with temporary protected status (TPS), which is granted to individuals fleeing natural disaster or war in their home country and allows them to legally live and work in the United States while the crisis at home resolves.

In March, a bipartisan group of 24 senators, including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes Senators vow to press Turkey sanctions bills despite Pence cease-fire announcement MORE (R-Fla.) and Menendez sent a letter to President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE requesting that Venezuelan migrants be granted TPS. 

Four million Venezuelans have fled the country, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Migrants are leaving due to hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages and violence from the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

The U.S. and other countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country's interim president.