Bogota, Colombia, October 30, 2023 — Over two years after Colombia launched a regularization policy that has benefited almost 2 million Venezuelans, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has published a report with lessons learned and a series of recommendations that can be applied to similar processes around the world.
In 2021, after becoming the main host country for millions of Venezuelans, Colombia launched an ambitious regularization program. The Temporary Protection Statute for Venezuelan Migrants (ETPV, its acronym in Spanish) was introduced by the Colombian government to address the humanitarian and protection needs for a population that included nearly one million Venezuelans in the country without regular migratory status.
To date, 1.7 million Venezuelans–of the more than 2.5 million estimated to be in the country–have been granted Temporary Protection Permits. This permit entitles them to regular migratory status through 2031, guarantees of rights, access to essential services and labor markets, and the opportunity to apply for residency.
Based on research and its experience collaborating in the ETPV process, the IRC has published a report with a series of learnings and recommendations for governments, international organizations, regional bodies, donor and financial institutions, and civil society groups on regularization as a pathway to protection. The lessons from Colombia’s regularization process include the need to:
- Make regularization eligibility equitable, preferably not limited to a single country but, at a minimum, including protection for third-country nationals who were resident in the country of concern, and update eligibility requirements, registration deadlines, and other rules as dynamics change over time.
- Plan early to ensure that public services are prepared to attend to new users through appropriate regulatory changes as well as ensuring technical compatibility, systems updates, staff training, and other advance preparations. While public services must be ready to respond, humanitarian aid remains essential to fill gaps for people who are at particular risk of being kept out of access to the protection systems and in areas that are outside institutional reach.
- Address barriers to livelihoods and self-sufficiency, promoting employment and entrepreneurship as pathways to economic empowerment and financial health. For individuals and families who continue to struggle, direct humanitarian assistance will still be critical not only to meet immediate needs but to make pathways to sustainable livelihoods more accessible and facilitate integration.
Marianne Menjivar, Director for the Venezuela Crisis Response at the IRC, said:
“For years, Colombia has been a lifeline for millions of Venezuelans who have left their country. Colombia has become a benchmark when it comes to welcoming people in need of protection, despite the historical lack of funding for this crisis.”
“There is proof that promoting regularization alternatives brings benefits to both hosted and host communities. An analysis by the International Monetary Fund estimates that investment in integration of Venezuelans could produce more than 3.5 percentage points growth in GDP in Colombia by 2030. Contrary to popular narratives, regularization has not served as a 'pull factor.' In fact, after its announcement, new entries of individuals who could still qualify for regularization remained 65% below pre-pandemic levels.”
“At the IRC, we call on the international community to guarantee support for countries like Colombia, so that humanitarian aid can be delivered, while providing the foundations for sustainable solutions, including alternatives to advance and update regularization processes.”
In the report, the IRC shared a series of recommendations to ensure that regularization contributes to equitable and sustainable responses to displacement. According to the IRC:
- Donors should provide sustained, multi-year support to plan, build capacity, and carry out regularization processes, ensure harmonization of regularization and refugee protection systems, and meet continued, urgent humanitarian needs in the medium-term, which if left unaddressed can undermine recovery and derail integration efforts.
- The World Bank and regional development banks should coordinate and make available resources and technical assistance that enable host countries to adopt progressive regularization policies, address longer-term development needs, and develop inclusive financial systems.
- Governments and regional bodies should explore deeper coordination and harmonization on regularization policies. In particular, leaders in the Americas should act on existing commitments to improve regional cooperation mechanisms to facilitate regularization, guarantee human rights, provide international protection, and ensure access to and portability of social services.
- The international community should redouble efforts to sustain and expand upon the successes of the Colombian regularization process for Venezuelans (while also addressing its challenges) and continue to evaluate and apply lessons learned with input from impacted communities.
The IRC’s work with Venezuelans in the Americas
The IRC began its response to support Venezuelans in the region in 2018, supporting more than 350,000 people in Colombia to date. The IRC’s response has included components related to health care, education, economic recovery and development, protection and empowerment activities with women and children, access to information through the InfoPa’lante platform, as well as providing guidance on enrolment to health and education systems. The IRC has helped nearly 10,000 individuals going through the ETPV registration and subsequent steps in the process.
Download the report: