Venezuelans flee to Peru as UN warns of a 'crisis moment'


Venezuelans fleeing economic meltdown and political turmoil have streamed across the Peruvian border, seeking to enter the country before Lima imposes new restrictions.

Peru has taken in nearly 400,000 Venezuelan immigrants, the majority of them arriving in the last year.

Read more: How Venezuela gets plundered

As of Saturday, Peru will require Venezuelans entering the country to produce a passport instead of only an identity card.

To date, 80 percent of Venezuelans have entered Peru with a passport, while 20 percent did so with an identity card, according to the migration data.

The new regulations prompted Ecuador to open a “humanitarian corridor” to the Peruvian border, with 35 busloads on the way, Ecuadoran Interior Minister Mauro Toscanini said Friday.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans seeking to enter Peru are at risk of being stranded in Ecuador and Colombia, which are already struggling to cope with the heavy migrant burden.

Some migrants are trying to join family in Peru and other countries.

Eduardo Sevilla, Peru’s top immigration official, said parents with children seeking to join the rest of their family, pregnant women and the ill will be exempt from the passport requirement.

Last week, Ecuador implemented a passport entry requirement as well, only to reverse the decision on Friday.

Colombia’s migration director, Christian Kruger, has said he was “worried about the consequences” of any tighter border controls by his country’s two southern neighbors.

“Asking for a passport isn’t going to stop migration, because they’re leaving their country not out of choice but out of necessity,” he said.

Read more: Multilateral approach needed to contain Venezuela’s refugee crisis, experts warn

Around half of the estimated million Venezuelans that have fled to neighboring Colombia in the past 15 months entered with passports, while the other half entered with only identity cards, according to Kruger.

More than 2.3 million of Venezuela’s 30.6 million population have fled the country since 2014, with 90 percent leaving to other Latin American countries, according to the UN. Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil have been hit hardest.

Read more: Drastic new measures for stricken Venezuelan economy

On Friday, the UN’s migration agency warned that the outflow of economic and political migrants was “building to a crisis moment that we’ve seen in other parts of the world, particularly in the Mediterranean.” 

“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,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Thursday.

Oil-rich Venezuela is in the fourth year of an economic downward spiral under President Nicolas Maduro, with double-digit contraction in gross domestic product, industrial production collapse and inflation estimated to hit 1 million percent his year.

cw/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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