Colombia’s president called for international help Wednesday in vaccinating almost a million undocumented Venezuelan migrants against the coronavirus, saying donors should put their money where their mouths are.
Ivan Duque was widely criticized for announcing in December that Venezuelans without migration papers would be excluded from the campaign to inoculate Colombia’s 50 million inhabitants.
He has now changed his tune, telling journalists he hoped to shortly announce “measures to try” to include the vast migrant community in the vaccination drive due to start later this month. “We would like to call on the international community to help us mobilize resources and vaccines to serve this population,” the president said.
Duque sought to justify his former stance, saying he had wanted to prevent “a stampede, a massive influx of migrants seeking vaccination.” He also criticized what he said were scarce international resources to deal with the exodus of people driven by Venezuela’s long-running economic crisis.
“There is a lot of concern about migrants and refugees… a lot of people are beating their chests, and they say: ‘What pain, what pain,’ But the mobilization of resources has been very meager,” he said.
Duque claimed 10 times as much donor money was spent on a Syrian migrant than a Venezuelan one.
He said he would take the matter up with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, due to visit Colombia next week.
The United Nations estimates that more than five million Venezuelans have fled the country since the end of 2015, most for Colombia. Bogota says 55 percent of the 1.7 million Venezuelans living in the country are undocumented.
Colombia is one of the countries in Latin America hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, registering over two million cases and more than 54,000 deaths.