A Homeland for Our Migrant Babies

With a measure informed by solidarity and pragmatism, Colombia granted citizenship to more than 24,000 babies born of Venezuelan parents, who were at risk of being stateless.

Photo: ACNUR retrieved

Venezuelan babies born in Colombia, of Venezuelan parents, are another casualty of the persistent political, economic, social and humanitarian crises in Venezuela. They couldn’t get birth certificates or passports (another right denied by the Maduro regime) and they couldn’t get Colombian IDs either because of constitutional provisions on citizenship. 

They are, as we’ve called it before, the legally invisible children of the migrant crisis. Or should we say “they were” because, at least for the next two years, Colombia found a way to protect them.

Colombia found a way to protect the legally invisible children of the migrant crisis.

The problem here was linked to the 1.3 million Venezuelans who had no choice but to move to Colombia to find a dignified life, with basic human rights. Of those, around 24,000 babies were identified by Colombian authorities as being at risk of becoming stateless. Why?

For one, the Colombian legislation is clear: these children cannot have Colombian nationality and enjoy the rights inherent to that citizenship because they’re not born of Colombian citizens. Moreover, the Maduro regime’s incapacity to provide them with consular services means they can’t get a birth certificate or a passport, for them to legally exist. This has been going on for a while now. 

All of this changed on August 5th, 2019, when the Colombian government did it again (help Venezuelans, that is).

In a move of solidarity, the Colombian government adopted the “Primero la Niñez” (Children First) resolution, No. 8470, that grants Colombian citizenship to children born in Colombia after August 19th, 2015, and will protect kids born of Venezuelan parents or single moms for the next two years, or until the situation in Venezuela improves. 

See, children born in Colombia, of Venezuelan parents, were issued a birth certificate of sorts, which read “Not Valid to Demonstrate Nationality” when registered at the proper offices. Now the resolution of the National Registry of Civil Status (backed by an inter-institutional group that also includes the Presidency) establishes that children registered after August 20th will be issued documents with the entry “Valid to Demonstrate Nationality,” provided that they were born in Colombia, are children of Venezuelan parents and are able to show a certificate of live birth.

The process is already in place and it’s free for Venezuelan parents.

The process is already in place and it’s free for Venezuelan parents, although it has a cost for the Colombian state. According to the National Registry of Civil Status, in charge of making this happen, around 3 billion Colombian pesos must be allocated for implementing the measure. 

Considering that this is a move rejecting xenophobia, favoring solidarity and the protection of human rights over all other considerations, including fiscal costs, and it’s aligned with international instruments for the protection of the most vulnerable, the international community must show its support. We cannot leave Colombia alone on this.

I, for one, have been extremely worried about these children. The right to an identity is the door to all other rights. Today, I feel a deep gratitude to the Colombian government, and the Colombian people, for this decisive move. If we add up everything that Colombia has been doing for us Venezuelans at this dire hour, we’ll be forever in debt. 

We won’t forget. 

***The views are personal. They do not represent those of the Organization of American States.