The Colombian Ministry of Health confirmed 73,572 cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, 23 June with Bogota concentrating the highest number (22,409 confirmed cases). A total of 2,404 individuals have died from COVID-19 and 30,459 cases have recovered.
Between 4 April and 22 June, 43,787 Venezuelans are known to have returned to Venezuela from Colombia.
On 5 June, Colombia migration authorities issued Resolution No. 1265 which outlines the protocol for the return of Venezuelans and details coordination measures between local authorities, Migración Colombia, local health institutions and the police. Under this resolution, Venezuelans who decide to return are at risk of losing their refugee status or having their application for asylum rejected.
Quotas have been established for the maximum number of returnees that can be received in Venezuela via the humanitarian corridor that is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (100 people per return day via the Arauca border crossing, and 300 per return day in Cucuta). This new measure has resulted in a bottleneck of people waiting to cross the border, many of whom are being forced to sleep on the street or in public areas without adequate biosecurity measures, sanitary services, medical first aid, and orientation and information services. In Arauca, local authorities designated a new temporary holding place for Venezuelans wishing to return in the municipality of Tame; between 50-150 people become stranded there on a nightly basis.
A District Court in Arauca ruled in favor of the rights of Venezuelan refugees and migrants after a complaint filed by the Local Ombudsperson’s Office (Personería) in Tame on behalf of Venezuelan refugees and migrants attempting to return to Venezuela. The Court ordered the national border authorities, health authorities, governors and mayors of the implicated states and municipalities to work together to guarantee the right to life, human dignity and health of Venezuelans traveling on foot through the department of Arauca wanting to return.
To respond to the situation of hundreds of Venezuelans stranded near the Simón Bolívar International Bridge in Norte de Santander, and to prevent greater health risks that increase when crowds gather, local authorities established as part of their contingency plan the Transitory Health Attention Center (CAST in Spanish) at the Tienditas International Bridge.
At the request of the authorities, members of the GIFMM in Norte de Santander are supporting this initiative with supplies, such as tents, food and hygiene kits, and some services, such as increased hygiene measures to avoid risks of spreading the virus.
In Arauca department, UNHCR and its partners are concerned about increased risks of forced recruitment of adolescents by armed groups. As a result of quarantine measures, families face economic hardship, children are out of school, and several activities providing "protection by presence" had to be halted in at-risk communities.
In this context, families are more vulnerable to pressure from armed groups wanting to recruit their children.
The National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences reported that nine Venezuelan women were killed during the period of mandatory isolation starting on 20 March (an increase of 12% from the same period in 2019). There were also 2 suicides, 168 cases of intimate partner violence, 27 cases of domestic violence and 75 cases of sexual violence against Venezuelan women in the same period.
The Children’s Delegate of the Ombudsperson’s Office identified 54 unaccompanied and separated Venezuelan children in North Santander, 129 in Arauca and 107 in la Guajira during the period of COVID-19. From 16 March to 12 June, UNHCR registered 2,206 cases of children at risk and 90 cases of unaccompanied and separated children.
The enrolment of Venezuelan children in the education system has decreased from 206,225 in 2019 to 128,133 in the first four months of 2020.
Main barriers for enrolment include the lack of school meals, insufficient access to electronic devices and connectivity, and school supplies, as well as issues related to armed conflict, which could result in an increase in school dropouts.