Three months into the rollout of the first phase of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS), the International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that availability of clear information and support services are critical for the more than 1.8 million Venezuelans in Colombia to successfully access the program.
An analysis of data from October 2020 to July 2021 via the IRC’s InfoPa’lante—a platform part of the Global SignPost project with critical information and orientation for Venezuelans—revealed an increase in the needs of people to access information on protection and regularization services in Colombia.
Since launching operations, InfoPa’lante has received over 220,000 visits from 100,000 unique users, with most of them looking to clarify questions related to the process to get access to the TPS:
- Over 81,500 visits (36% of the total) were related to information on the organizations that can support Venezuelans with the TPS process, how to certify the required permanence in the country if they are under an irregular migration status, what is the process to follow for children, and what to do if the official government platform is out of service.
- More than 2,000 people have sought orientation from InfoPa’lante’s trained moderators via Facebook Messenger, online chat, and WhatsApp. These requests represent the 54% of the total that the platform has received, and the most common questions are related to the Single Registry for Venezuelan Migrants–as part of the first phase of the TPS–including issues to schedule the appointment for the second phase.
- Over 200,000 people have interacted with TPS-related content on social media, increasing the follower base by 55% since the beginning of the implementation of the process on May 5.
Marianne Menjivar, the IRC’s director for the Venezuela response, said:
“We applaud the decision by the Colombian government to grant Temporary Protected Status to the millions of Venezuelans that the country has welcomed. We have, however, identified challenges that might prevent the most vulnerable people from accessing this protection program.
“Thousands of Venezuelans face a digital gap, lacking not only access to the internet or to laptops or smartphones, but also the skills to use the required web platforms. Those who have access to digital services still encounter misinformation (like fake news portals) and unethical practices, such as being ‘charged’ for support with the registration process, which is totally free.
“As the needs of Venezuelans in Colombia continue to grow, exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic, greater funding from the international community is still needed. Actions must be directed towards supporting people to guarantee they can access the TPS and also to continue delivering critical services to empower them to rebuild their lives.”
The requests of information on how to access the TPS was InfoPa’lante’s biggest search during the last five months. This highlights that, for Venezuelans, acquiring a regular migration status is a priority. The two most visited sections after the TPS inquiries were:
- Colombian nationality, with over 34,500 visits to 10 articles addressing how babies and children born in Colombia to Venezuelan parents can acquire Colombian nationality, how to obtain the passport, and how to register a newborn.
- Border issues, with more than 16,500 visits to 7 articles where people can access information related to services at ports of entry, the risks of crossing through illegal paths (also known as trochas) and queries asking if the borders are open or closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The IRC’s response to the Venezuela crisis
The IRC is on the ground delivering a collective response to support Venezuelan migrants holistically—and timely—where they need most: implementing programming with a mixed model of partnerships with local organizations and direct implementation in Colombia; providing support for vulnerable populations through local organizations in Venezuela; and starting to build relationships with partners at the Colombia-Ecuador border. In 2020, the IRC provided assistance for more than 87,000 Venezuelans.
The IRC’s programming includes protecting children and adolescents with psychosocial services and education; empowering people with cash assistance programs; granting access to health care, including sexual and reproductive health and primary attention; delivering child malnutrition services; and developing prevention and response programs to gender-based violence. Additionally, the IRC launched the Colombia instance of the Global Signpost project, InfoPa’lante, a digital platform to help displaced populations access information on civil and legal rights, employment, access to health care and COVID-19.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRC has pivoted its programming to provide a safe, reliable, and innovative response, setting mobile health clinics and providing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for doctors and nurses.