Hundreds of Venezuelans who have entered Ecuador at the Colombian border, many of them illegally, have won safe passage to Peru, two days before Peru’s government tightens its migration requirements.
Ecuadorian authorities said Thursday they had dispatched buses to take the migrants 840 kilometers from the Andean country’s northern border with Colombia to the Huaquillas coastal crossing with Peru.
The first buses began their border-to-border runs on Friday.
In addition to picking up refugees at the Colombian border, the buses are stopping along highways to pick up Venezuelans who are headed to Peru by foot.
Ecuador Interior Minister Mauro Toscanini said more than a hundred buses will used in what he calls a “humanitarian corridor” through Ecuador to Peru.
This year, more than 550,000 Venezuelans have entered Ecuador through the Rumichaca border, most planning to continue south to find work in Peru, Brazil and Chile. Alarmed by the growing numbers of refugees, Ecuador last Saturday put in place rules requiring Venezuelans to show passports, rather than just national identity cards. On Friday, an Ecuadorian court threw out the rule, saying it violated the constitution.
Peru began requiring passports Saturday morning.
Hundreds of migrants who began traveling days ago by bus and on foot through Colombia from Venezuela before the policy change crossed the Rumichaca check-point.
Maly Aviles, a 26-year-old Venezuelan, spent days on the Ecuador-Colombia border waiting with friends for a solution before the buses arrived.
“There is no way back. To return to Venezuela is suicidal,” she said.
Venezuela’s economy has been in steep decline and there are periodic waves of protests against the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro argues that he is the victim of a Washington-led “economic war” designed to sabotage his administration through sanctions and price-gouging.
The chaos has forced many to flood across the borders in search of work, food and basic healthcare. This has stretched social services, created more competition for low-skilled jobs and stoked fears of increased crime.
The governor of Ecuador’s northern Pichincha province said more transfers would be organized for Venezuelans in the coming days.
“The Venezuelans have taken the decision to head for Peru and in Ecuador we must guarantee their rights. It’s a humanitarian crisis,” he told a local radio station.
Source: Reuters, www.reuters.com