Colombia: helping refugees from Venezuela, safeguarding peace

Federal President Frank Walter Steinmeier and Elke Büdenbender visit the Bogotá Municipal aid centre for Venezuelan refugees

Federal President Frank Walter Steinmeier and Elke Büdenbender visit the Bogotá Municipal aid centre for Venezuelan refugees, © dpa

13.02.2019 - Article

A fragile peace and more than one million refugees from Venezuela: Federal President Steinmeier reaffirms German support.

More than one million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia as a result of the crisis in their country, 220,000 of whom now live in Bogotá alone. During his visit to the Colombian capital, Federal President Steinmeier visited the Bogotá Municipal aid centre for Venezuelan refugees today. At his meeting with Colombia’s President Iván Duque, he paid tribute to the country’s efforts to provide aid for the refugees. In view of the highly dangerous situation in Venezuela, it was a relief that neighbouring countries such as Colombia were doing a great deal to help refugees, said Steinmeier. However, Colombia was unable to shoulder this burden alone, which is why it was good that the UN had established a fund to this end, he added. In 2018, Germany supported refugees from Venezuela in neighbouring countries to the tune of 12 million euros, and aid totalling the same amount has been set aside for 2019. A further five million euros have been earmarked for humanitarian aid in Venezuela itself. Steinmeier said that the humanitarian situation in Venezuela was dramatic, adding that bloodshed must be prevented and free presidential elections held in the very near future.

Support for peace

The peace process in Colombia has been destabilised following the attack by the rebel organisation ELN on a police academy in the capital, which claimed 22 lives. In Bogotá, Federal President Steinmeier visited the German Colombian Peace Institute CAPAZ, which was established at his initiative as Foreign Minister. Furthermore, he met the President of the Colombian Truth Commission, the President of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the Director of the Search Unit for Missing Persons. Steinmeier is hopeful that it will be posssible to overcome the violence in spite of the attack. With his visit, he underscored Germany’s contribution towards achieving a lasting peace.

Using Germany’s membership of the Security Council

Tom Koenigs, the Envoy to the Colombian Peace Process, accompanied Steinmeier in Bogotá. Koenigs has expert knowledge of the conflict in Colombia and has travelled back and forth to the region as a mediator. Reaching a peace settlement with the ELN is one of his core priorities. Germany was also directly involved as an observer in the successful peace negotiations with the FARC. At a UN Security Council briefing, Koenigs emphasised how important the multilateral approach taken by the Colombian Government is. The peace process in Colombia is one of the few dossiers in which the Security Council speaks with one voice. We must seize this major opportunity, said Koenigs. The international community is encouraging the new Government under President Duque to continue its commitment to peace and to implement the peace agreement to the letter.


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