BOGOTA – Both officially and in terms of public perception, Colombians in recent years have welcomed Venezuelan migrants with open arms. But with Colombia’s upcoming elections this year, many experts warn that trend could change.
It was almost two years ago that Simón Gutierrez joined the first wave of Venezuelan migrants leaving his country of origin.
In 2014 he settled in Colombia.
With a little paperwork, Gutierrez was able to become a Colombian citizen, thanks to his father’s Colombian citizenship.
That was until last month, after a bank transfer failed, Gutierrez learned that the entire 2014 process had been annulled.
He became an undocumented migrant. And he’s not the only one.
According to the civil registry, the office that annulled the documents, did so after a review of 300,000 cases. They found that more than 40,000 people, most of Venezuelan origin, had used false documents during their naturalization process.
“The purpose is not to create a chaotic situation, of total disaster, no, what we seek is to comply with the law. We need to comply with the law,” said the Director of the Civil Registry, Rodrigo Perez.
The registrar undertook the review to purge the electoral register before the Mar. 13 elections.
But according to some groups that monitor xenophobia in the country, the action is part of a shift in opinion towards the Venezuelan migrant population in the country.
Colombia has received more migrants than any other country, nearly 1.2 million to date.
A recent study found an increase in xenophobic messages toward migrants on social media.
“I went from one day being a citizen to being almost a criminal,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez says he never used documentation to obtain Colombian citizenship. He is now calling on Colombian authorities to further measure the impact of their actions on vulnerable communities.
To read this story in Spanish, click here.