Colombians and Canadians seek "humanitarian exchange" to return to their countries

Oscar Vigil

Toronto. Hundreds of Colombians, mostly students and tourists, were stranded in Canada unable to return to Colombia due to measures imposed by the Colombian government to prevent the spread of COVID-19, looking for a “humanitarian swap” to be able to return to your country.

The main concern of Colombians is that, study visas, tourism or work, with which they entered Canada, are about to expire. But also, the situation with the leasing contracts and the resources they had destined for their stay in the country, it's the same: are about to expire.

About 260 Colombians residing primarily in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, they organized into a group on WhatsApp called “Regreso Colombia”, to lobby and ask the Colombian Government to help them return to the country by hiring a humanitarian flight.

In the middle of the situation, luck may be knocking on your doors; well, the 28 April the Canadian Government will send an Air Canada plane to Bogotá, Colombia, to collect a little more than 200 Canadian stranded in Colombia due to sanitary measures.

The problem is that, although the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is fully ready to help Colombians who have been trapped on Canadian soil to return home, the government of President Iván Duque, In colombia, It still does not give the green light so that on that Air Canada flight its citizens can travel to Bogotá.

The Canadian Council on Hispanic Heritage (HCHC) made arrangements for the eventual return trip of Colombian students and tourists next 28 April with both the Canadian and Colombian governments, but while the response from the Canadian government was clearly affirmative, that of the Colombian government was basically a "we'll see".

"The Canadian government does not impose movement restrictions on Colombian citizens who wish to leave Canada. But nevertheless, the Colombian government has banned international flights to Colombia (Decree 436, signed by President Duque el 23 of March), except humanitarian flights that must arrive empty to Bogotá ”, replied the Canadian Ambassador to Colombia, Marcel Lebleu, at the request for help.

But more important, He said that "if the Colombian government changes its policy to accept the return of Colombians on a humanitarian flight sponsored by the Canadian government, simply inform us. I am sure that said request will receive a positive response ”.

Ambassador Lebleu even suggested that the Chargé d'affaires of the Colombian Embassy in Canada be contacted directly, Monica Beltrán, who, He said, "Will have contacts with the airline that the Canadian government will use if we make a humanitarian flight".

The HCHC contacted Ambassador Beltrán, who explained that, effectively, "As part of the measures to address the economic emergency, social and ecological decreed by President Iván Duque to face the health crisis caused by COVID-19, the Colombian Government issued the Decree 439 of the 20 March 2020, that suspended the arrival of aircraft from abroad, either for the entry of passengers or connections in Colombian territory for a period of 30 days, from 23 of March. The Decree stipulates that said measure could be extended if deemed necessary, and the Government has announced that it will remain in force at least until the end of the state of national emergency ”.

Immediately afterwards, he explained that the Ministry of Foreign Relations has prioritized efforts to provide assistance to Colombian citizens who were temporarily abroad and were unable to enter Colombian territory as a result of this and other mobility restrictions adopted by various countries., and that "Our consulates will continue to offer guidance and support, and they will identify the needs of those nationals while the measure that restricts entry to the country ceases. ".

Specific, The highest representative of the Colombian government in Canada said that "The opening of flights is carried out under direct instructions from the Office of the President, gradually, and through strict coordination between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the national immigration agency (Colombia migration) and the civil aviation authority (Aerocivil). In line with the above, the Embassy and the corresponding Consulates will carry out the respective coordination, where appropriate".

That is to say, As of mid-week, there was still no decision made by the Colombian government regarding its stranded students and tourists in Canada.. But nevertheless, for today Friday the pressure of these 260 organized people, approximately 600 who are in Canada according to official sources, had begun to be effective in the media in Colombia.

Articles on the subject began to appear in the Colombian media in the main newspapers, and various radio stations began transmitting videos with the testimonies of those affected, many of them young minors who have had to be locked up for four weeks in houses with families that are not their own and that are already experiencing stress and anguish.

This Friday, The Toronto Star also published a comprehensive report on the case., and it has been known from well-informed sources that a humanitarian flight is likely to be organized during the first weeks of May to take home at least part of those affected. Many of them obviously still have not lost hope of being able to board the Air Canada flight on Tuesday..

Are you going to use this flight that is already scheduled for Tuesday 28 April sponsored by the Canadian government? If not, Why don't you go to use? Good questions that deserve good answers. We will see.