Colombia to give citizenship to babies of Venezuelan migrants

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will give citizenship to more than 24,000 children born to Venezuelan migrant parents in Colombia, to prevent the children from being stateless and less able to access education and healthcare, President Ivan Duque said on Monday.

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The measure, which will cover all Venezuelan children born in Colombia since August 2015, will be in force for two years.

More than 1.4 million Venezuelans have settled in Colombia, fleeing a long-running political and economic crisis in their homeland that has caused severe shortages of food and medicine.

Children born in Colombia to Venezuelan parents are currently stuck in legal limbo with no identity documents or proof of citizenship in any country.

There are few Venezuelan consulates abroad and travel home is difficult and dangerous, leaving many migrant parents with no way to register their newborns for documentation.

“Today we are supporting children, we are supporting these helpless little ones who want to have a right to citizenship and we’re proudly saying that they are Colombians,” Duque told journalists.

“We are going to embrace them, we are going to support them in difficult times. We are giving a ray of hope to thousands of children and families,” Duque added.

Stateless people often have trouble traveling and struggle to access public services like education and healthcare which require identity documents.

Duque, like his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos, has repeatedly urged Colombians to welcome migrants as their brethren.

The country of some 49 million has not put in place stringent immigration requirements, unlike Peru and others in the region.

Colombia’s government has urged Venezuelans who crossed the border informally to register with authorities so Colombia can better provide them with public services, without the threat of deportation. Hundreds of thousands have heeded the call.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta in Bogota; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Matthew Lewis