By Ivan Maltsev
The head of American diplomacy took part in a regional meeting on migration at the ministerial level.
The United States has asked the countries of the Western Hemisphere to make additional commitments to address the pressing problems of illegal migration, while Washington is expanding the possibilities of legal migration to the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with some officials from Latin America at a regional ministerial meeting in Bogota, the Colombian capital.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas took part in the meeting in a virtual format.
The United States discussed options for action, including assistance in the voluntary return of migrants who do not have sufficient grounds for asylum to their home countries.
“We are strengthening the cooperation of law enforcement agencies in the fight against smugglers and traffickers. We are improving protection, improving checks, recommendations and, along the way, strengthening the procedure for processing applications for asylum, as well as, perhaps more than in the medium term, expanding legal opportunities for migration, both existing and new,” Blinken said at a joint press conference with Colombian President Ivan Duque.
He said that Colombia had received almost 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants.
Washington-based Refugees International, an organization dedicated to protecting refugees, said that U.S. leadership is urgently needed to strengthen the protection of displaced persons. At the same time, Venezuelans and Haitians are forced to leave their homes.
“Secretary Blinken should take advantage of the ministerial conference in Bogota this week to discuss with the leaders a huge variety of policy options, including developing a plan to address the problem of displaced Venezuelans in the region,” said Rachel Schmidtke, who deals with Latin American issues at Refugees International.
COVID-19 has dealt a severe blow to Colombia.
The country’s GDP declined by 7 percent last year, which led to large-scale protests on socioeconomic inequality and trade relations with the United States, said Keith Mines, director of the Latin American Program at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Duque, who has been criticized by the progressive wing of the U.S. Democratic Party for suppressing the protests, said his government has a zero-tolerance policy for human rights violations. The Colombian national police are being reformed.
Blinken said that the United States would give Colombia 6 million doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and more than $80 million to support the country’s efforts in the fight against COVID-19.