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Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela: Population Movement in the COVID-19 context Information bulletin no. 1

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The IFRC Regional Office for the Americas is publishing this special report on population movements due to the impact on the countries mentioned, the pre-existing dynamics in the region and the importance of reflecting the coordination between National Societies and the IFRC in addressing the needs of populations on the move affected by COVID-19. This bulletin is issued for information purposes and reflects the current situation and details available at this time.

The National Red Cross Societies of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, supported by emergency appeals launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), are seeking funding and other assistance from donors. For more information, please see the 12-month report on the Venezuela operation, the 24-month report on the Colombia operation and the 18-month report on the regional operation including Ecuador.

The context

The COVID-19 pandemic announced by the WHO on 11 March 2020 has had important impacts in Colombia,
Ecuador and Venezuela. According to data from the respective national authorities as of 24 May 2020, Ecuador has a total of 36,656 confirmed cases and 3,108 deaths, Colombia has 21,175 confirmed cases and 727 deaths, and Venezuela reports 1,121 confirmation cases and 10 deaths.

Timeline

• 29 February 2020. Ecuador confirms its first case of COVID-19.

• 6 March 2020. Colombia confirms its first case of COVID-19.

• 11 March 2020. WHO declares COVID-19 pandemic; Ecuador declares a national health emergency.

• 12 March 2020. Colombia declares a national health emergency.

• 13 March 2020. Venezuela confirms its first 2 cases of COVID-19.

• 14 March 2020. Colombia closes the border with Venezuela.

• 15 March 2020. Ecuador closes all its border crossings.

• 17 March 2020. Peru closes its border with Ecuador; Colombia closes its land, aerial and river borders

With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, mitigation measures, preventive isolation and border closures have resulted in a decrease in purchasing power and loss of formal and informal jobs in the countries of the region.
The migrant population also faces difficulties in covering their basic needs in terms of food and housing, and due to the lack of alternatives in transit and host countries, many are returning to Venezuela, by bus or on foot. The Colombian State militarized its border with Ecuador on 1 April 2020 (departments of Nariño and Putumayo) to increase control over more than 40 irregular crossings extending through 586 kilometers of border between Ecuador and Colombia.

While Colombia maintains its measures of mandatory social isolation, Migracion Colombia, the country’s migratory authority, has outlined a voluntary return procedure as an exceptional measure, allowing greater supervision and control over returnee flows to Venezuela. Most returnees come from cities such as Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Medellín, Cali and Ipiales. In turn, most people from Ipiales come from Ecuador and Peru, entering Colombia through irregular crossing points (trochas). The main points of entry from Colombia are through Norte de Santander (Puente Internacional Simón Bolívar), Arauca and La Guajira (Paraguachón), entering Venezuela through Táchira, and to a lesser extent, through Zulia, Apure and Bolívar. According to Migración Colombia, between 14 March and 15 May 2020, 56,346 people6 have returned to Venezuela, equivalent to approximately 3% of Venezuelan migrants living in Colombia. These figures do not include the number of people returning through irregular channels. In addition, pendular flows of migrants to and from Venezuela continue through one of over 150 informal crossings (especially on the border of Norte de Santander and Arauca), in search of provisions, despite the militarization on both sides of the border. Currently, 300 people per day are officially permitted to travel from Colombia into Venezuela.