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Donor Update on UNHCR COVID-19 Response in Colombia - #7 (15 May - 2 June 2020)

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The Colombian Ministry of Health confirmed 30,493 cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, 1 June, in all of the country’s 32 departments, with Bogota concentrating the highest number of people infected (7,386 confirmed cases). In Colombia, a total of 969 individuals have died from COVID-19 and 9,661 cases have recovered. So far, 86 confirmed cases, which resulted in 5 deaths, were reported among Venezuelan refugees and migrants. In addition, as of 27 May, 30 of Colombia’s more than 80 indigenous groups have been affected by COVID-19 (517 confirmed cases and 19 deaths).

On 28 May, Decree 749 was issued, mandating obligatory preventive isolation from 1 June to 1 July 2020. Furthermore, the decree stipulates the continued closure of all sea, land and river border crossings until 1 July 2020. Exceptions include humanitarian emergencies, the transportation of cargo and merchandise, and cases of force majeure. International and national flights (except for humanitarian reasons) are suspended through 31 August.

Between 4 April and 28 May, according to Migración Colombia, a total of 38,157 Venezuelans returned to their country via official Colombian border crossings in Arauca, Norte de Santander and La Guajira.

The flow of people walking to the Venezuelan border intensifies, including from the Caribbean coast and the south of the country. The military checkpoint at the border between the departments of Arauca and Casanare has been removed due to pressure from Casanare authorities, and as of this week, caminantes are continuing on foot towards the border, exposed to a variety of protection risks.

Continued displacements and confinements: New confrontations between FARC-EP dissidents generated another large-group displacement in Roberto Payán affecting 473 persons. On 27 May, the national army rescued 10 people from the rural area of the municipality of Suarez in Cauca who were being threatened by the illegal armed group Columna Movil Jaime Martinez and who were later assisted through the special protection route for displaced persons.

Fundación de Ideas para la Paz reported a 53% increase in killings of community leaders and FARC-EP ex-combatants in the first quarter of 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019, as well as an increase of 5% in forced displacement.

Vulnerable persons are disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including LGBTI, indigenous, children and elderly populations. The National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences reported a 67% percent increase of killings of LGBTI individuals in Colombia during the period of mandatory isolation as compared to the same period in 2019, while the Ombudsperson’s Office reported 15 cases of sexual violence against trans women, 10 against lesbian women and 9 against bisexual women. UNHCR has knowledge of several cases of violence against the LGBTI population being a motivation for their return to Venezuela.

The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) has reported a 43% increase in calls received during the mandatory isolation compared to the same period in 2019. Out of the 15,369 calls, 79% were related to physical/psychological violence or neglect; 19% to sexual violence and 2% to homeless children or adolescents.