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IOM Continues to Support Migrants on the Colombia-Venezuela border

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IOM has helped more than 3,000 returnees to travel by land to other Colombian cities where their family members or friends can help them rebuild their lives ©IOM/Rommel Rojas Rubio 2015

As part of the International Organization for Migration’s support to the Colombian government to provide support to citizens who have returned from Venezuela, to date over 3,000 people have been transported from the border to several Colombian cities.

IOM has also supported the registration of nearly 17,000 returned people, and also provided technical assistance to manage 20 temporary shelters.

Since Venezuela closed the first border crossing with Colombia on August 19, more than 1,600 Colombians have been deported and thousands have returned from Venezuela fearing deportation. Their massive return initiated a huge humanitarian operation by the Colombian government to provide temporary shelter, food, medical attention, documentation, access to education, and other humanitarian aid for the returnees.

IOM was the first international organization to join the Unified Command Post (UOC), which coordinates humanitarian response, to support the government’s operations. Additionally, IOM supported the National Disaster Risk Management Unit (UNGRD, in Spanish) by making available the SIGAT information and monitoring system for temporary shelters. SIGAT was a key part to the completion of a unified register of the affected, ensuring the registration of the nearly 17,000 Colombians returning in vulnerable conditions, and facilitating their access to government aid.

“I’m coming back to work. I don’t know anything about Colombia, but we’ll start over,” said Martha Cecilia, a Colombian who had lived in Venezuela for 35 years and who, after her return, decided to go back to the Colombian city where she was born with IOM support. Her two eldest daughters, who were born in Venezuela and are now married there, stayed behind, in her house, where she still had all of her belongings. “As long as we’re healthy, we’ll always be able to start over again,” she added.

IOM also offered the government its global experience in managing temporary shelters. More than 88 public servants from different local and national institutions have been trained on how to appropriately manage the over 20 shelters that were created for returnees. Currently, only 10 of these shelters are still open with just over 1,800 people, as many have already been transported to other cities or have rented housing with the subsidies offered by the Colombian government.

“IOM has always been an important partner for the Colombian government and has been at our side non-stop through this dramatic situation,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs, María Angela Holguín, at a council of ministers held in the city of Cúcuta, from where support to the thousands of Colombians returning from Venezuela has been coordinated.

For his part, Alejandro Guidi, IOM Colombia Chief of Mission stated: “We must recognize the reaction of authorities, who appropriately attended to returned migrants’ needs, as well as the solidarity of the local population, who, since the first moment, poured to the border to support their fellow citizens returning in obvious conditions of vulnerability.”

For further information, please contact Jorge Gallo, IOM Colombia, Tel: +5716397777, Email: jgallo@iom.int