Thousands of Venezuelan migrants who want to return to their country are still trapped in Colombian cities between the coronavirus pandemic and the authorities’ bureaucracy, which they accuse of delaying their trip for no reason.
In the Visión de Colombia neighborhood in western Bogotá, more than 200 people say they have been sleeping on four buses for four days, waiting for the immigration authorities to give them permission to leave the city and travel by road to Cúcuta or Arauca, two cities that have border crossings with Venezuela.
Jairo Roa, one of the people waiting for the authorization of Migration Colombia to be able to travel to the border because the quarantine has restricted his opportunities to work, told Efe that he saw on social networks many of his compatriots trying to return to Venezuela without greater difficulties.
“In my case, I had been seeing on Facebook that buses were leaving and that they were arriving at the border (…) Migration came to the toll in the municipality of Chía (on the outskirts of Bogotá) and gave them authorization and left. I don’t know Why didn’t this happen with us? “said the man, who together with his compatriots sang the hymn of his country to give himself courage in the face of the situation they are experiencing.
He added that three days ago they went to that town near Bogotá and there they blocked their way, so the Police took them to the Visión neighborhood of Colombia to wait for the authorization of the immigration authorities.
“The reason they give us is that Venezuela is not going to open the border to us, that the border is not open to us,” he said.
The Venezuelans, who are waiting for the authorization to leave Bogotá and thank the solidarity of residents of the sector who have donated food, assure that none of the travelers have symptoms of COVID-19.
“Today three buses left for the border with Arauca and the other four that are left we hope to leave tomorrow for Cúcuta (which has the main border crossing between both countries),” said Roa, who hopes they will fulfill what they were promised.
The director of Migration Colombia, Juan Francisco Espinosa, said that the voluntary return of Venezuelans is being implemented with a protocol coordinated with the mayors and governments of the country to avoid crowds at the exit points.
“Colombia has always been ready to help the Venezuelan people, but that help is done in a responsible way, not only with migrants, but with our communities,” Espinosa said in a video released by his office.
He added that “Venezuelan citizens who wish to return voluntarily to their country will be able to do so with the conditions that have been set for this procedure and those who do not comply with them will see their trip suspended until they do so.”
In this sense, he specified that since the quarantine began, on March 25, more than 12,000 Venezuelans have returned to their country and reached the different border crossings in some 300 buses.
Regarding these vehicles, Espinosa assured that the authorities are working to ensure that they comply with the regulations established by the Government to provide this type of service during compulsory isolation.
So far, Migración Colombia has initiated sanction processes for more than 15 companies for not complying with the regulations established during the quarantine.
On March 14, some 200 Venezuelans, including 17 children, began their return from the Colombian city of Cali (southwest), fearful of the coronavirus pandemic that left them without job opportunities in Colombia.
According to Colombia Migration, there are 1.8 million Venezuelans living in the country.
And it is that with the economic paralysis caused by the quarantine, thousands of Venezuelans who had emigrated to Colombia were left without a source of income and consequently without the means to eat or pay a lease, for which they chose to return to their country.