Refugee rights representatives are claiming that a new requirement that Venezuelans entering Ecuador show proof that they have no criminal record is unfair and could amount to a “death sentence” for some.
“The rule is grossly unjust since the document Ecuador is requiring is impossible to obtain for most Venezuelans,” says Daniel Regalado, a spokesman for Venezuelan refugees. “Like most other government functions in Venezuela, the website that accepts requests for the document is not working and, even when it does, it only accepts 60 applications a month.”
Ecuador Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner announced Monday that all Venezuelans entering Ecuador must present an apostilled certificate from the Venezuelan government showing that they have not been arrested on criminal charges. The new requirement follows the Saturday night murder of a pregnant Ecuadorian women in Ibarra by her Venezuelan boyfriend. In a television broadcast Sunday, President Lenin Moreno said that Ecuador was taking several measures to protect itself against foreign criminals, including the establishment of special police units to monitor Venezuelans traveling through or living in the country.
Human rights groups and legal organizations criticized Moreno’s comments following the murder, calling them xenophobic and a violation of international human rights.
“The new requirement slams the doors in the face of Venezuelans fleeing poverty and oppression,” Regalado says. “With this policy Ecuador is turning its back on its publicly stated policy of offering refuge from oppression. For some refugees, this could be to a death sentence.”
Other refugee rights advocates claim that the new policy will not stop criminals. “Do you think that criminals will go through the process of getting a document? Of course not,” says Carmen Gómez, a university professor and immigration expert. “As is usually the case with decisions motivated by raw emotion, this is a misguided policy that punishes the innocent.”
Following Sonnenholzner’s announcement of the new requirement, secretary to the president Juan Sebastián Roldán suggested that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is knowingly exporting criminals. “He is emptying prison cells and sending dangerous criminals across the border. Ecuador must protect itself from this activity.”