In Colombia, so far, according to figures from the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF), 4,251 minors are awaiting adoption. And this figure could be much higher if minor Venezuelan immigrants could be counted who, due to obstacles in current regulations, It is impossible for them to even choose to adopt, which puts them at risk of never having a family again.
Which is that if it is difficult for Colombian children and adolescents to be welcomed into a new family (most often not because of legal obstacles but because of the demands of adoptive parents), then it is much more so for immigrants, because for a reason: They do not have Colombian citizenship.
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Since the enactment of the 1997 law of 2019 All minors born in Colombian territory but children of Venezuelan immigrants are entitled to their civil registration. However, this excludes the thousands of minors who have already been recognized as Venezuelan by the neighboring country, but who are currently in Colombia and who, due to their vulnerability, meet the conditions to be accepted into the adoption program. He was born after the mentioned date.
This is not a minor problem, if one takes into account that of the 1,842,390 Venezuelan immigrants in Colombia, there are at least 420,000 minor immigrants, according to the latest figures from Migration Colombia. According to Dane, 67,089 babies were born last year to Venezuelan mothers, averaging close to 8 every hour.
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Many of them arrived in Colombian territory on their own, and their parents still live in the neighboring country. On the other hand, others suffered from all kinds of violations of their rights. According to the ICBF, as of December 31, 2021, there were 3,643 administrative processes to restore the active rights of Venezuelan migrant children.and minors who have suffered abuses such as physical and psychological abuse, labor exploitation, and sexual violence, among others.
And although it is not known how many people meet the conditions to be adopted, according to Fernando Alvarado, a lawyer who specializes in child protection, such cases are very frequent: “If they were Colombians, they would be on the waiting list for adoption. However, there are several restrictions, which They go through international regulations as well as legal loopholes that prevent them from starting this process.”
As mentioned above, the main problem is the lack of a civil registry, which is Colombian citizenship. According to the expert, the law does not have the authority to deal with these cases. But also, like Lina Maria Arbelaiz, director of the International Institute for Family Welfare, admitted that it was not possible to send them back to their country because of the social and institutional problems that remain there. (See attached interview).
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“We add to this that their adoption in Colombia cannot be abandoned or repatriated, because the government’s policy is to give them support, but also because the relations between the two countries are severed,” Alvarado adds.
In addition, prior to any adoption process, the International Institute for Family Care (ICBF) is obligated to contact the families of minors to verify that they have no one to take care of them. But without bilateral relationships or with parents in the national territory the same perpetrators (as happens in many adoption cases, not just with immigrants), this is not possible.
Given the complexity of the situation, solving this issue does not seem like an easy task. However, at the moment, there are instructions in the works in the Constitutional Court that could solve this problem, depending on what the Supreme Court decides. This is File T-8,292,286, which specifically shows the status of a minor who cannot be adopted due to his lack of Colombian citizenship.
The guardianship, given by a family advocate from the ICBF, occurred after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused to grant Colombian citizenship to A Venezuelan minor who was abandoned by his mother and therefore cannot be adopted.
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In the file, the State Department asserts that “there is a legal vacuum to relinquish a minor for adoption, as he is not Colombian. Therefore, no family attorney or judge can rule on her adoption.” The entity also ensures that “the current legal system does not provide the necessary tools to protect foreign children who do not hold a nationality (in this case Colombians) and yet have been abandoned in Colombia.”
Judge Gloria Stella Ortiz referred to this case at the time, and called on the court to rule in this case, because “there are scenarios in which the prevailing rights of Venezuelan children are violated or threatened, and it appears that the Colombian legal system does not provide the tools to protect them.”
It is expected that the court’s ruling on this guardianship will be known in the coming months, which, if favorable, could mean an important step not only to allow the adoption of these minors, but in a broader sense, to grant them citizenship. Colombian for those immigrants who have not reached the age of majority.
Childhood is in danger
The above is just one of the problems experienced by these residents of Colombia, who are in a delicate state of vulnerability. The numbers are clear in showing the order volume.
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In addition to restorations of rights, in 2021, a total of 108,817 Venezuelan immigrants were under the care of the International Institute for Family Welfare. This represents a growth of 1,087 percent compared to 2016, when 9,170 were serviced.
In addition, of the total number of immigrants who served in 2021, 90,253 were girls and boys from 0 to 5 years old. Similarly, 7,875 Venezuelan migrant children and pregnant women were treated for care and prevention of malnutrition.
‘They were not left without attention from the International Federation of Family Welfare’
Lina Maria Arbelais, director of the ICBF, points to this problem.
Why are the obstacles to adopting immigrants?
One of the priorities of this government is to protect and guarantee the rights of these boys and girls. However, there are restrictions in Colombia’s immigration law that do not allow adoption due to Venezuelan citizenship. To be adopted they need a Colombian civil registry. If we give them citizenship, the child will have two citizenships, and if given up for adoption to a family, If his mother appears later, we cannot prevent him from regaining guardianship of the minor.
International regulations have also limited the issue of adoption of migrant and refugee children, and have been very clear that this should not happen in times of a migration crisis.
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Does this lack of citizenship also limit the care they can receive?
They are not left without care because they begin to receive ICBF protection services, which include all early childhood, childhood, nutrition, family, adolescent and youth services, as well as administrative processes to re-establish rights in the event that their rights are discovered to be violated or they are victims of some type of violence, as happens. With Colombian children.
Could it be said that there is some kind of legal oblivion?
I don’t think it is a legal vacuum, but rather a situation stemming from what is happening in the neighboring country, where many families send their children to try to make a living. Our goal is to provide them with all of our institutional capabilities. On the other hand, we cannot send them back to their country because we have no evidence that they will not fall victim to the same problems that the nation is going through.
Mathieu Chacon Ordos
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