A woman and her baby from Venezuela come get a meal at the community Kitchen “La Divina Providencia”, managed by the local Catholic Church diocese in Cucuta, Colombia. © UNHCR/Vincent Tremeau

The Colombian Government has taken a major step in combatting statelessness by ensuring that children born in the country to Venezuelan parents are able to acquire Colombian nationality.

The measure, which was announced on Monday, is expected to benefit the 24,000 children born in Colombia to Venezuelan parents since August 2015, many of whom are at risk of statelessness or are stateless. It will also prevent children from becoming stateless in the future.

Until now, a child born in Colombia only acquired Colombian nationality if at least one parent was Colombian, or in the case of foreign parents, if they were legally domiciled in the country at the time of the child’s birth. Many of the estimated 1.4 million Venezuelans who have fled their country and are in Colombia may not meet this requirement.

The options for children born to Venezuelan parents in Colombia to acquire Venezuelan nationality are also very limited at the moment. Many Venezuelan families would have difficulties in obtaining the necessary documentation or in registering the child at a Venezuelan consulate in Colombia, as these services are currently unavailable.

With this exceptional and temporary administrative measure that will be valid for 2 years, the Colombian authorities will change the current birth registration system by including documentary proof of Colombian nationality of children born to Venezuelan parents.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, together with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNICEF, will financially support the Colombian Government in implementing this measure to provide these children with documents to prove their nationality.

Stateless people can face a lifetime of exclusion and discrimination, often denied access to education, health care, and job opportunities. Colombia’s decision is hugely positive move for these children and their families.

Worldwide, statelessness affects millions of people, leaving them without the basic rights and official recognition that most of us take for granted. Some 3.9 million stateless people appear in the reporting of 78 countries, but UNHCR believes the true total to be significantly higher.

UNHCR is mid-way through a 10-year global campaign to end statelessness and will hold a high level meeting in October in Geneva to assess the achievements to date, including this action by the Colombian Government, and to encourage concrete pledges by States and others on this issue.

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Originally published by UNHCR on 06 August 2019

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