Venezuela: Expelled Colombians Can Come Back, but Property in Question

The Venezuelan government has agreed to allow the nearly 2,000 Colombians violently expelled from the Venezuelan border to return to the country. It is not yet certain whether their property will be returned to them or if any of the victims of this mass deportation will want to return.

A statement released this week by UNASUR declared:

The Union of South American States [UNASUR] and the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela have agreed that Colombian citizens deported during the border crisis between the two nations who wish to normalize their situation in Venezuela and return to the country will be able to do so with this government’s health

The agreement was signed, the statement notes, in Quito, Ecuador, where Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. The two agreed at that meeting to “investigate the situation on the border” and issue “a call to the spirit of brotherhood and unity,” drawing heavy criticism from those who wished to see concrete solutions to the border crisis arise from their meeting.

The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (CIDH) has issued a call for Venezuela to return property confiscated during the raids to Colombian nationals who choose to return home. As Venezuela has yet to release any details regarding the return of Colombian nationals to the border, it is unclear whether that property will remain in government hands. The CIDH demands Venezuela apply “international standards regarding the use of force in migratory operations, [including] the prohibition of the detention of girls, boys, and adolescent migrants and detentions in conditions abiding by human dignity.”

In late August, President Maduro declared Colombian nationals to be a threat to the Venezuelan state, accusing them of “contraband” and creating “paramilitary” groups. Venezuelan soldiers violently tore nearly 2,000 Colombians from their homes in Venezuela–many separated from their children and spouses–and confiscated their property. Those who fled under duress rather than be apprehended did so on foot. According to Reuters, “Hundreds waded across a border river with fridges, chickens and mattresses on their backs.”

Soldiers labeled homes belonging to Colombians with a spray-painted “D” for “deported,” a tactic President Santos described as similar to that used in “Nazi ghettos.” About 19,000 Colombians living on the border voluntarily fled home, fearing being caught by Venezuelan soldiers.

In addition to the theft of property and separation of families, several of those deported have reported sexual assaults on the part of Venezuelan soldiers. Underaged girls, men, and women have all told Colombian officials they were sexually assaulted on the way out of Venezuela.

UNASUR is celebrating Venezuela’s offer to allow Colombian nationals to return. “It is an important humanitarian gesture because I think that some who were deported would like to return to their homes, reintegrate into their families,” UNASUR Secretary General Ernesto Samper said. “Surely they must have some employment in Venezuela.”

UNASUR did not announce a date these nationals would be allowed to return or any details regarding the process by which they would be allowed back.


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