ROME — Pope Francis publicly thanked the Colombian government Sunday for granting protected status to Venezuelan refugees fleeing the chaos in their home country.
“I always look with gratitude on the dedication of those who collaborate in favor of migrants,” the pope said following his weekly Angelus prayer in the Vatican. “I thank all of you for what you do for migrants.”
“Today in particular, I join the Bishops of Columbia in expressing gratitude to the Colombian authorities for implementing the temporary protection statute for Venezuelan migrants present in that country, fostering welcoming, protecting and integrating,” he said.
The pontiff also underscored that the measure was taken not by a “super wealthy, developed country,” but by “a country that has many problems of development, of poverty and of peace… Almost 70 years of guerrilla war.”
But with all these problems “they have had the courage to look at those migrants and to create this statute. Thank you, Colombia!” he said.
As Breitbart News reported, Colombian President Iván Duque announced last Monday that undocumented Venezuelan refugees living in Colombia as of January 31, 2021 will be granted temporary protected status for up to ten years.
The measure will apply to some one million migrants without papers in Colombia and will also allow the hundreds of thousands of already legalized migrants to remain in the country without having to reapply for temporary permits or visas.
Because of the new rule, Venezuelan refugees will be able to work legally and to access health and education services.
The Venezuelan exodus under dictator Nicolás Maduro is one of the largest mass migrations in the world, driven by shortages of fuel, food, and medicines as well as violent government oppression. Some 1.7 million of the approximately 6 million Venezuelans who have fled the socialist dictatorship are in Colombia, most of them illegally.
As Pope Francis mentioned Sunday, the Colombian bishops have also praised their government leaders for the measure.
In a statement made public this Wednesday, the Colombian Episcopal Conference said the new statute is “a valuable instrument” for the reception, protection, promotion, and integration of the Venezuelan refugees.
Migrants, refugees, victims of trafficking and displaced persons are the “emblem of exclusion because, in addition to enduring difficulties due to their migratory condition, they are frequently the object of negative judgments or social rejection,” the text stated.
Therefore, it is necessary to move “towards attitudes and initiatives that promote the human dignity of all people” regardless of their origin, the bishops said.
The implementation of the Temporary Protection Statute is “a fraternal act that opens the doors” to guarantee that Venezuelans who arrive in the country can enjoy their fundamental rights and “access opportunities for a dignified life.”
The Maduro regime has deliberately obstructed the process for Venezuelans to obtain passports and other legal documents necessary to leave the country, aggravating the worst migrant crisis in the history of the Americas.