As a result of new immigration rules, more Venezuelans are leaving Ecuador than entering. The trend, which began in September, is in stark contrast to the same time last year when thousands a day were pouring across the Rumichaca Bridge at the Colombian border.
According to those heading back to Venezuela, the lack of employment in Ecuador, Peru and Chile is primary reason they are going home. Refugees are also leaving Colombia due to poor employment prospects, immigration officials say.
Beginning August 26, Ecuador required that Venezuelans entering the country have a visa and a valid passport even though such documents are almost impossible to obtain in Venezuela. The requirement had been imposed by Peru three months earlier, leaving tens-of-thousands of Venezuelans stranded in Ecuador, many of them with family members already in Peru and Chile.
The United Nations Office of International Migration, which protested the tighter entry restrictions in Ecuador and Peru, says the number of Venezuelans returning to their home country is increasing rapidly. “Most of them have been unable to find employment since leaving their country while others were illegally underpaid,” the UN said. “As with refugees everywhere, they were frequently abused in local labor markets and had no employment benefits, such as health care.”
The UN said that the inability to bring family members with them was another factor in the return home of many Venezuelans. “They had hoped to earn enough income in their new countries to bring others with them but this was not possible and, instead of splitting families, they decided to return.”
The Venezuelan Civil Association of Ecuador says that in addition to employment problems, refugees faced discrimination and sometimes violence in Ecuador. “They are accused of crimes they didn’t commit and of taking jobs from locals,” the association director said. “Xenophobia is a major problem in all the countries where they have relocated,” he added.