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Pitting Sovereignty Against Migration: The Case of the Venezuelan Refugee Crisis

Manav Johar

Volume: 14 Issue: 1 2024


Within the field of political science, the concept of state sovereignty is usually associated with how states protect their borders or security during war or conflicts between or within states (intra or interstate conflict). However, the conflicts of neighbouring states resulting in migration flows may also play an integral role in a state’s own sense of sovereignty. During an ongoing migrant crisis, a host state may be unable to uphold its own sovereignty. This may be due to two reasons. One, the obvious literal crossing of state borders by migrants, and second, the undermining of sovereign authority as state migration laws may not be followed, and borders may be illegally passed. His paper considers different approaches to protecting state sovereignty in Latin America - specifically Colombia and Ecuador in wake of migration from Venezuela. Where Colombia’s strategy was to develop a clear migration plan, Ecuador’s strategy was to, in effect, ignore Venezuelan refugees. The main resultant difference between the two states was the vast difference in documentation of migrants. In Colombia, there was a higher percentage of documented migrants, whereas in Ecuador, a vast majority of migrants were undocumented - hence Ecuador acts as a perfect example of a state whose approach to sovereignty was limited and ineffective. Using this case study as an illustration, this paper argues that the way to uphold sovereignty during the migration crisis is through effective migration policy and regulation.

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