Operation: Opération: Colombia



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Key Figures

2020 year-end figures
128,000  refugees, migrants and IDPs received legal assistance and guidance on access to rights, asylum and referral to specialized services
36,000  Venezuelans and returning Colombians received temporary shelter or housing assistance
29,000  people trained to improve access to employment and entrepreneurship
25,000  people at heightened need supported with assistance including psychosocial support and support for funeral expenses, medication, and access to safe spaces for gender-based violence survivors, LGBTI+, single carers and unaccompanied or separated children, and referral to specialized services
16,772 households (58,000 people) received cash assistance to meet basic needs
13,612 children (47% female) directly benefited from UNHCR’s education interventions in 2020, including assistance with prevention of xenophobia, infrastructural support and equipment (school kits, furniture, biosecurity kits) support to formal education (pedagogical routes and tools for inclusion and interculturality in schools) and informal education (life skills programs and psychosocial support programs)
2021 planning figures
30,000 IDPs and 50,000 Venezuelans will be provided with civil status documentation
30,000 Venezuelan applicants will be provided with information on government status determination procedures
10,000 IDPs and 150,000 Venezuelans will receive legal assistance
9,000 adolescents (6,000 IDPs and 3,000 Venezuelans) will participate in youth programmes
15 projects supporting livelihood capacities of IDPs will be defined and implemented

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2020 11,245,155
2019 10,157,456
2018 9,015,122


[["Refugees",997],["Asylum-seekers",19933],["IDPs",8252788],["Stateless",11],["Others of concern",1241889],["Venezuelans displaced abroad",1729537]]
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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[31.48831469,29.10286757,34.12837795,49.73082189,96.63752346000001,124.40075616],"expenditure":[14.342493130000001,16.34013628,22.89252664,38.23726096,50.29073304,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[0.97474715,2.23460232,12.571882460000001,32.76755501,85.54186920000001,96.95982714],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[30.51356754,26.86826525,21.55649549,16.96326688,11.09565426,27.44092902]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[0.57263632,1.97688292,11.02916958,29.599248600000003,41.864662079999995,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[13.76985681,14.36325336,11.86335706,8.63801236,8.42607096,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

On average, 135,000 people per month, including Venezuelans, Colombian returnees, host communities, asylum-seekers and refugees of other nationalities, were supported by UNHCR in 2020, including support provided to strengthen State technical capacity. Some 153,000 people benefited from the response to the IDP situation in 2020; of them, 32,000 IDPs and their hosts were supported to access registration and documentation, while 6,759 IDPs received free legal assistance.

Notwithstanding the implementation of the 2016 Peace Agreement with the FARC, other illegal armed actors caused new forced displacement, child recruitment and sexual and gender-based violence, especially along the Pacific Coast and on the Venezuelan border. In some departments with limited State presence, armed actors took advantage of pandemic containment measures to exert control over communities.

As a consequence of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, it is estimated one in four Venezuelan and Colombian households were evicted and left homeless as they were unable to pay rent or housing costs.

Population trends

Around 1.72 million Venezuelans were in Colombia (51% men, 49% women) by the end of 2020, 56% lacking a regular status. Some 24% Venezuelans are children and 37% are youth. Nearly 12,000 people lodged asylum claims in Colombia in 2020, 99% of which were from Venezuela.

Measures adopted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including border closures and restrictions on the number of entries and exits through humanitarian corridors led Venezuelans to use informal border crossings, or trochas. According to Migración Colombia, over 124,000 Venezuelans returned to Venezuela from or through Colombia in 2020.

According to official data, more than 70,800 people were newly displaced in 2020, and in areas monitored by UNHCR, 69,000 more were subject to confinements due to the presence of armed actors.

Key achievements

  • UNHCR expanded registration mechanism through helplines in 11 offices, allowing for the registration and assistance of 186,000 people since the pandemic was declared in March 2020. Over 38,000 people were individually registered.
  • Thanks to cooperation with partners, 13,826 people benefited from sexual and reproductive health support, 77% (10,678) being women and girls.
  • UNHCR strengthened the health response in 19 departments, providing support to 11 Departmental Health Secretaries, 15 Municipal Health Secretaries and 42 Health Institutions (41 hospitals and one Health Attention Centre).
  • During 2020, 144,023 sanitary items such as PPE, soap, infrared thermometers and disinfectant gel were distributed as well as 4,596 items for shelters and 19,486 supplies to strengthen health attention services in hospitals. 

Unmet needs

  • With the operation just over 50% funded, support to the much-needed field presence of the Ombudsperson office in conflict-affected communities in the Pacific Region and Norte de Santander would have been more extensive. Furthermore, additional comprehensive specialized services for survivors of gender-based violence could have been provided, particularly by strengthening access to safe houses.
  • Due to the pandemic, the process of legalization of informal settlements was slowed.
  • With additional funds, more vulnerable people of concern could have been supported with cash assistance and vouchers after having lost their livelihoods and faced evictions as a result of the pandemic.

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

Thanks to flexible funding in 2020, UNHCR was able to respond swiftly at the outbreak of the health emergency and distribute relief items, cash and voucher assistance, and to provide legal support to vulnerable refugees and migrants, and conflict-affected population. Also, the flexibility of funds allowed the Office to prioritize the provision of support to enhance the national health response, as by the donation of Refugee Housing Units and PPE to first responders in coordination with local governments.

Working environment

UNHCR’s operation in Colombia works to ensure protection and assistance to over 1.4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela, 7.9 million IDPs, and an estimated 500,000 Colombian returnees from Venezuela. The objectives of Colombia’s historic peace agreement continue to be pursued in the face of numerous challenges, and some regions of the country are confronted with ongoing violence and displacement. This operational context, combined with the first large-scale influx of refugees and migrants in Colombia’s history, has created significant challenges for the country and protection risks persist for UNHCR’s people of concern.
The Office will continue to work closely with the Government and key international actors to enhance protection responses for the various populations of concern. The operation’s mixed protection strategy will also include a focus on building the capacity of state institutions and communities, promoting documentation, socio-economic inclusion and a strong age gender and diversity approach, as well as advocacy and technical assistance for the strengthening of the Colombian asylum system.
UNHCR will continue to co-lead the Protection Cluster and the inter-agency mixed migration group (GIFMM), which includes 55 UN, NGO and Red Cross member organizations. GIFMM will continue to coordinate closely with the Government, the Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator’s office, and the humanitarian coordination architecture. UNHCR will further support the new United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework being developed for 2020 and beyond which will include the response to mixed movements from Venezuela as one of its main pillars.
The Office also works closely with the private sector, especially concerning issues such as prevention of xenophobia (Caracol Television; El Tiempo newspaper), labour insertion (Sierra Nevada fast food chain; Sunshine Bouquet flower industry; WeWork), socio-economic integration for Venezuelans and Colombian returnees (AlphaMundi Foundation, and possibly Chanel Foundation and Genesis Charitable Trust in 2020), as well as durable solutions for IDPs.

Key priorities

In 2020, under the Venezuela Situation response, UNHCR will continue to:
  • Lead, with IOM, the interagency coordination arrangements for analysis, response and coordination with the authorities.
  • Support the Government in ensuring Venezuelans’ access to information, shelter, registration and regularization of their status, and opportunities for socio-economic integration.
  • Rehabilitate, construct and equip public infrastructure to increase local absorption capacities in key sectors such as health and education in some of the most affected host communities.
  • Support the Government in implementing eased nationality requirements to prevent statelessness of children born to Venezuelan parents in Colombia.
  • Strengthen the capacity of the Ombudsman’s Office for child protection as well as SGBV prevention and response.
  • Advocate for the establishment of a comprehensive human mobility law, including reinforcement of the asylum system.
In 2020, under the IDP response, UNHCR will continue to:
  • Focus on local integration in urban areas as many IDPs live in informal settlements controlled by illegal armed structures, with limited or no access to basic public services, creating many protection risks.
  • Monitor protection risks and new displacements in prioritized regions and support State institutions in effectively implementing their protection and prevention functions, with a strong age, gender and diversity focus.
  • Promote community participation and mobilization in prioritized communities affected by internal displacement, including to pursue opportunities for achieving durable solutions.
  • Support the transition justice mechanisms created under the Peace Agreement to ensure the visibility of forced displacement and the inclusion of IDPs in peacebuilding strategies.
Latest contributions
  • 15-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 14-OCT-2021
  • Qatar

    private donors

  • 12-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Ireland
  • Italy

    private donors

  • 09-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 08-OCT-2021
  • Japan

    private donors

  • 06-OCT-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 05-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 04-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 01-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 30-SEP-2021

    private donors

  • Switzerland

    private donors

  • Brazil

    private donors

  • Philippines

    private donors