The case of Colombia
Colombia as country of transit and reception for forced migrants
Colombia, located at the northern extremity of the South American continent, is part of the transit migration corridor from the South to North America. Due to its geographical location, Colombia serves as a crossroads for migrants traveling from countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and other South American nations, but also increasingly from extra-continental migration flows. In the first six months of 2023, authorities registered 250,000 people crossing the dangerous routes through the so-called “gap of Darién,” the northern bottleneck and a route through the jungle to Panama (GIFMM 2023).
Being a country of emigration, immigration, and transit migration, it has played a multifaceted role in terms of migration dynamics over the past decade (2010-2022) and has witnessed a growing trend of transit migration and immigration in recent years. Colombia is marked by more than 50 years of civil war and has experienced significant outward migration flows; In 2012, about 4.7 Mio people were living abroad (MPI 2017), and 7.3 million people. people were internally displaced (UNHCR 2022) due to armed conflict and economic and political instability.
In the last decade, Colombia has also emerged as an important transit country for people from many parts of the world, particularly from the Caribbean region (Miranda 2021), Venezuela (Ordóñez/Arcos 2019; Pineda/Ávila 2019), and diverse African countries (Winters 2019), but also from China and India, among other origins. Those from the Caribbean and Africa have often spent years in other South American countries, such as Brazil and Chile. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis have forced migrants to leave again in search of better living conditions. In addition, Colombia has experienced an increase in immigration from various parts of the world. This includes individuals and families seeking refuge or asylum, as well as those attracted by economic opportunities. In 2021 Colombia registered 2.5 Mio people of Venezuelan migrants escaping the dire humanitarian and socioeconomic crisis in their home country. The influx of Venezuelans has led to a range of responses, with Colombia implementing policies to provide temporary protection, access to basic services, and employment opportunities for Venezuelan migrants. However, forced migrants in transit and those who settle face many challenges to integration, including violence and economic deprivation.
The complex migratory routes that pass through Colombia have prompted Colombia to strengthen its border control mechanisms, improve humanitarian assistance, and engage in regional cooperation to address the needs of migrants in transit. In the case of Venezuela, most seek to find their new home in Colombia, but the country faces limitations in offering dignified living and working conditions to the migrant population, forcing them to continue their journey north. Managing migration and refugee reception poses ongoing challenges. Colombia continues to face resource constraints, public services, and the need for sustainable solutions to ensure the well-being of both migrants and host communities.
UNHCR (2023): Colombia Factsheet 2023. Online available.
GIFMM (2023). Sistema de monitoreo de movimentos hacia Centro y Norteamérica. Online avaiable.