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Deported Colombians allowed return to Venezuela if status 'legalized'

The border remains closed.

By Andrew V. Pestano
Deported Colombians allowed return to Venezuela if status 'legalized'
The border crisis between Venezuela and Colombia has seen about 22,000 Colombians flee or be deported as part of an anti-smuggling Venezuelan government operation. Pictured: A family is reunited in a border crossing. The image was shared by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who also wrote: "Families that were separated begin to reconnect! No border should separate parents, children, siblings." Photo courtesy of Juan Manuel Santos/Twitter

CARACAS, Venezuela, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Venezuela will allow the return of deported Colombians who were expelled as part of a border-wide crackdown on smuggling as tensions remain between the countries.

Ernesto Samper, president of Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in New York City at the United Nations on Monday to discuss the crisis, which led to the agreement.

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Deported Colombians returning to Venezuela will need to "legalize" their residence status in Venezuela.

"The Union of South American Nations and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela agreed that Colombians deported during the border crisis between both countries, who wish to legalize their status in Venezuela and return to that country, can do so with the help of the government," UNASUR said in statement.

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Venezuela and Colombia announced an agreement last week to normalize relations following the escalated dispute on their shared border.

Maduro progressively ordered the closure of Venezuela's border with Colombia after three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian were injured in an attack by suspected smugglers in the border town of San Antonia del Tachira.

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Maduro then began a crackdown on suspected smugglers in the region and declared a state of emergency in several municipalities. About 2,000 Colombians living illegally in Venezuela were deported and about 20,000 Colombians were estimated to have left in fear of deportation.

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The border remains closed and Maduro said it would take months to "create a border of peace."

The Democratic Unity Roundtable 29-member leading political opposition coalition in Venezuela has accused Maduro's government of using August's smuggler attack for political benefits ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for Dec. 6, as a way to distract Venezuelans from the country's security issues and worsening economic crisis.

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