High court suspends requirements for Venezuelan refugees entering Ecuador

Mar 29, 2019

Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has temporarily suspended requirements for Venezuelans entering the country, including those requiring a valid passport and criminal report. The court ruled that a petition filed by the national ombudsman’s office and Venezuelan citizen rights group provided “compelling arguments” that the requirements violate the constitution.

A Venezuelan woman’s documents are checked by a border agent on Tuesday. (El Comercio)

The rule requiring a passport or other valid identification was imposed last year to slow the number of Venezuelan’s crossing into Ecuador from Colombia. At one point, the interior ministry said that 6,000 refugees a day were entering the country, overwhelming the ability of public services to respond to their needs. The requirement for criminal records followed the highly publicized murder of an Ecuadorian woman by a Venezuelan man in Ibarra in November.

The justices said they need time to review the case presented by the petitioners. “The charges of unconstitutionality of the rules appear to have substantial merit and must be reviewed and then resolved,” the court said.

The court issued an order to Interior Minister María Paula Romo, Foreign Minister José Valencia and Federal Prosecutor Iñigo Salvador “to immediately comply with the suspension of requirements” for Venezuelans crossing the border, saying it would make a final ruling within 15 days.

In her petition to the court, Ombudsman Gina Benavides and other petitioners claim that the requirements imposed by the government violate “the principle of equality and non-discrimination” established in the constitution. They also say that the fact that the requirement apply only to Venezuelans violates a constitutional clause prohibiting “differential treatment” of  people of specific nationalities.

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In her argument, Benavides claims that Ecuadorian authorities imposed the requirements knowing that it was impossible for Venezuelans to obtain passports and criminal records due to the civil disorder in Venezuela.

It is estimated that there are 275,000 currently living in Ecuador.

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