New Peru entry requirements go into effect at midnight Friday, stranding thousands of Venezuelan refugees in Ecuador

Jun 15, 2019 | 16 comments

Thousands of Venezuelans crowded the entry gates into Ecuador from Colombia this week in hopes of reaching Peru by Saturday.

Hope turned to anguish early Saturday morning for hundreds of Venezuelans unable to be processed by Peruvian immigration officials at the Ecuadorian border. Those who made it to the border after midnight Friday were met by a cordon of police blocking the way to processing stations for those who did not have documentation.

The majority of those caught at the border say they cannot meet the new Peruvian immigration rules requiring a valid passport and visa.

Venezuelan citizens rushed through Ecuador to enter Peru all week ahead of the new requirements. Long lines of people carrying blankets and suitcases had formed at a border post in northern Peru, while humanitarian groups set up activities for their children under a white tent.

A police cordon at the border crossing to Peru.

Gen. Raul Alfaro, the police chief for the Tumbes region, at the Ecuadorian border, said 5,000 Venezuelans entered Peru’s northern border on Wednesday and Thursday, doubling the normal rate of daily entries.

“It’s likely that the number of migrants will increase as the deadline approaches,” in the coming hours, Alfaro said in a television interview from the Tumbes border crossing. “The national police is providing protection and security so these people can enter the country in an organized fashion.”

Before Saturday, Peru allowed Venezuelan migrants to enter the country with only theirnational ID cards.

The new requirements are forcing thousands of impoverished Venezuelans who have no passports to make a desperate dash for Peru’s northern border, which is more than 1,300 miles (2,090 kilometers) away from their home country.

Humanitarian agencies estimate that that 10,000 to 20,000 refugees could be stranded in Ecuador by the new Peruvian rules with many more stuck in Colombia.

“Getting a passport in my country has become almost impossible” said Marianni Luzardo, a Venezuelan migrant who was in the Ecuadorean city of Tulcan on Thursday, and still had to travel 500 miles (800 kilometers) to make it to Peru. Luzardo traveled with her two children and her elderly mother, and said it took her sixteen hours to cross the border between Colombia and Ecuador due to the large numbers of Venezuelans heading south.

“There is no way to continue living in Venezuela, there is no future there” said Luzardo, whose 10-year-old son has autism. She is hoping to join her husband in Peru.

With its relatively stable economy and flexible immigration laws, Peru has become one of the main destinations for Venezuelans seeking to escape hyperinflation, medical shortages and political repression at home, and thousands have been entering the country on a daily basis over the past two years.

According to the United Nations, Peru is currently home to 770,000 Venezuelan migrants of which 280,000 are seeking refugee status.

While the United Nations has urged Peru and other countries in South America to facilitate the entry of Venezuelan migrants into their territory and give them protected status, Peru’s government said it has imposed visa requirements in an effort to make immigration safer and more organized.

Some Peruvians blame the new arrivals for a spike in local crime rates, and the government has responded by deporting 140 Venezuelans with criminal records over the past three months.

But Peru’s Catholic Bishops Conference and Amnesty International have spoken out against the new visa requirements.

“These kinds of barriers have not worked in any country” Amnesty International’s Director for Peru, Marina Navarro said on Wednesday. “When people fear for their lives, they will flee their country anyways.”

Venezuelan citizens were rushing to enter Peru Thursday and Friday as the Saturday deadline of new entry requirements on migrants fleeing the crisis-wracked South American nation approached.

Long lines of people carrying blankets and suitcases had formed at a border post in northern Peru, while humanitarian groups set up activities for their children under a white tent.

In Ecuador, the main route from Venezuela to Peru for most of the refugees, thousands of Venezuelans rode overcrowded buses south on the country’s main highways to the Peruvian border.

Gen. Raul Alfaro, the police chief for the Tumbes region, said 4,000 Venezuelans entered Peru’s northern border on Wednesday, doubling the normal rate of daily entries.

“It’s likely that the number of migrants will increase” in the coming hours, Alfaro said in a television interview from the Tumbes border crossing. “The national police is providing protection and security so these people can enter the country in an organized fashion.”

Starting Saturday, Peru will demand passports and visas from Venezuelan migrants, who had previously been allowed to enter the country by presenting their national ID cards.

The new requirements are forcing thousands of impoverished Venezuelans who have no passports to make a desperate dash for Peru’s northern border, which is more than 1,300 miles (2,090 kilometers) away from their home country.

“Getting a passport in my country has become almost impossible” said Marianni Luzardo, a Venezuelan migrant who was in the Ecuadorean city of Tulcan on Thursday, and still had to travel 500 miles (800 kilometers) to make it to Peru. Luzardo traveled with her two children and her elderly mother, and said it took her sixteen hours to cross the border between Colombia and Ecuador due to the large numbers of Venezuelans heading south.

“There is no way to continue living in Venezuela, there is no future there” said Luzardo, whose 10-year-old son has autism. She is hoping to join her husband in Peru.

With its relatively stable economy and flexible immigration laws, Peru has become one of the main destinations for Venezuelans seeking to escape hyperinflation, medical shortages and political repression at home, and thousands have been entering the country on a daily basis over the past two years.

According to the United Nations, Peru is currently home to 770,000 Venezuelan migrants of which 280,000 are seeking refugee status.

While the United Nations has urged Peru and other countries in South America to facilitate the entry of Venezuelan migrants into their territory and give them protected status, Peru’s government said it has imposed visa requirements in an effort to make immigration safer and more organized.

Some Peruvians blame the new arrivals for a spike in local crime rates, and the government has responded by deporting 140 Venezuelans with criminal records over the past three months.

But Peru’s Catholic Bishops Conference and Amnesty International have spoken out against the new visa requirements.

“These kinds of barriers have not worked in any country” Amnesty International’s Director for Peru, Marina Navarro said on Wednesday. “When people fear for their lives, they will flee their country anyways.”

Other humanitarian workers admit, however, that Peru and Ecuador are straining under the pressure of the refugees. An estimated 800,000 Venezuelans have relocated to Peru in the past two years while 350,000 are now living in Ecuador.

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