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Colombia insists Ecuador and Peru reopen their borders to Venezuelan refugees

The Colombian Ombudsman’s office is demanding that Ecuador and Peru relax requirements for the entry of Venezuelans into the two countries. On August 26, Ecuador began requiring passports and visas for Venezuelan citizens to enter the country, effectively blocking entry to more than 90 percent of those who want to cross the border from Colombia. Peru had established similar requirements two months earlier.

Venezuelan refugees in Colombia.

“We ask Ecuador and Peru to roll back their new requirement so that a humanitarian corridor from Colombia can open again,” Carlos Alfonso Negret, Colombia’s chief Ombudsman, said Sunday after touring the international Rumichaca bridge border crossing between Colombia and Peru. “The new rules are separating families that need to be together. We consider the rules a violation of international law and insist that they be rescinded.”

Negret claims that thousands of refugees are waiting at the Ecuadorian border to be allowed passage. “The entry documents being required by Ecuador and Peru are not available to the citizens of Venezuela due to the disruptions in that country,” he said.

When it instituted the new immigration requirements, Ecuador said it was at “maximum capacity” in accommodating the influx of refugees. The interior ministry says that 1.2 million Venezuelans have entered Ecuador from Colombia since late 2017, with more than 300,000 remaining in the country.

In total, the United Nations estimates that 400,000 refugees are currently living in Ecuador while 850,000 live in Peru. An estimated 1.8 million Venezuelans are in Colombia, many of whom want to continue on the Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Brazil or Argentina, according to Negret.

“The Andean borders should remain open to all of our brothers and sisters, especially those in extreme need,” Negret said. “It is the long-established norm of the Andean Community of Nations that citizens of these nations be allowed to move freely across borders with only an identification card and we ask that this policy be honored once again.”

Negret said that Ecuador and Peru should follow the lead of Colombia in welcoming and assisting refugees of the region. In particular, he cited the separation of children from their parents and the denial of pregnant women to cross the border as reasons restrictions should be lifted. “Families are being destroyed by the current actions.”