The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations’ Migration Agency (IOM) issued a joint statement today calling on the international community to increase their support of Venezuelan migrants fleeing chaos and despair in their country.
In the statement, the UNHCR points out that more than 1.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015, with 90% of them migrating to South American countries.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said:
We recognize the growing challenges associated with the large scale arrival of Venezuelans. It remains critical that any new measures continue to allow those in need of international protection to access safety and seek asylum
The IOM’s Director General, William Lacy Swing, recognized the goodwill efforts made by neighbouring countries so far to accommodate the influx of Venezuelan migrants, and called on these efforts to continue:
We commend the efforts already made by receiving countries to provide Venezuelans with security, support and assistance. We trust that these demonstrations of solidarity will continue in the future.
The joint statement comes as attitudes towards Venezuelan migrants in South America appear to be at a turning point. While Venezuela’s regional neighbours initially appeared to welcome migrants with open arms–particularly during the latest wave, which began in mid-2017–some have recently taken steps to hinder the entry of Venezuelans.
Last week, Peru and Ecuador announced measures to limit Venezuelan migration into their respective countries by demanding individuals to present a valid passport at the moment of entry.
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Brazil issued a ruling banning the entry of Venezuelans into the country’s northern Roraima state. That ruling was later overturned, and the border was re-opened. The legal maneuvers preceded an attack on a Venezuelan migrant camp in the Brazilian town of Pacaraima, during which angry Brazilians torched the migrants’ belongings and forced hundreds of them to flee back into Venezuela.
Ecuador Church Asks for End to Passport Requirement
Ecuador’s Episcopal Conference called on Quito today to bring an end to the newly-implemented requirement that Venezuelan migrants present a valid passport upon entry into the country, calling the measure harmful to this vulnerable population.
Eugenio Arellano, the president of the Conference, said that the measure would be particularly harmful to children, teenagers and the elderly. He also pointed out that the price of getting a passport puts the document out of the reach of many Venezuelans.
Arellano also called on the Ecuadorian government to spearhead a meeting of Andean countries to coordinate efforts to help ease access to the region by migrants.
The Church’s call comes at the same time that El Nacional reports that even Venezuelans with a valid passport are being turned away at the border in Ecuador.
According to the newspaper, Ecuadorian authorities are demanding not only a valid passport from Venezuelan migrants, but also that the passport have an expiration date beyond six months.
A man named Humberto Urdaneta told the newspaper that he was turned away at the border by Ecuadorian authorities because his passport expires in January 2019. He also said that the authorities told him that his only recourse was to travel to Colombia and apply for a tarjeta andina, a travel document that allows the bearer entry into Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
Peru Expecting 20,000 Venezuelans Within 48 Hours
The government of Peru is expecting that as many as 20,000 Venezuelans will enter the country in the next 48 hours, as the country’s passport restrictions on the migrants are scheduled to come into effect on Saturday at noon. At that time, Venezuelans will no longer be able to enter the country without presenting a valid passport at the point of entry.
Yesterday, Peruvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nestor Popolizio defended the entry restrictions by saying that the country “would never” restrict Venezuelan access. On the new passport measures, Popolizio said:
Peru is open to permanently receiving Venezuelan migrants, [but we need] truly orderly, secure and regulated migration.
According to El Nacional, Peru hosts the second-highest number of Venezuelan migrants in South America (behind Colombia), with 400,000 of them residing in the country.
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