Venezuelans gather at Ecuador border trying to get to Peru


Venezuelan migrants wait at the border crossing station at Rumichaca, Ecuador, on the border with Colombia, 13 June 2019. EFE-EPA/Jose Jacome

TULCAN, Ecuador.- Long lines of Venezuelan immigrants on Thursday formed at the border crossing station between Ecuador and Colombia waiting to travel onwards to Peru before that country, starting on the weekend, demands a visa to enter, despite the difficulties that they are having on the Colombian side.

Ecuadorian and Colombian authorities said that the flow of Venezuelan citizens has increased in recent hours due primarily to two things: the fact that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro decided to open the border with Colombia this weekend and the entry into force as of midnight on Saturday of Peru’s demand that all foreigners entering the country must have visas.

In the face of this increased migration flow, an interinstitutional committee in Ecuador decided to reopen the humanitarian corridor to Huaquillas, a town on the border with Peru, and six buses belonging to the provincial government of Pichincha, of which Quito is the capital, left on Thursday from the Rumichaca crossing point with more than 200 Venezuelans on board.

According to what the director of international relations and human mobility of Pichincha prefecture, Dr. Paul Ramirez, told EFE, on board those buses «woman have been given priority, pregnant women or ones with children, although we’re also (providing) a bus for single men.»

Last August, and in the face of the passport requirement to enter the neighboring country, Ecuador opened a humanitarian corridor using 36 buses to transport from the country’s northern border to the southern frontier hundreds of Venezuelans who wanted to get to Peru.

On that occasion, more than 1,000 immigrants were transported, not only from the Rumichaca crossing point but also from Sucumbios in the northeast.

The latest figures provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees show that four million Venezuelans have fled their country since 2015 and that, of those, at least 3.1 million have remained in Latin America.

Ecuador registered 1.5 million arrivals during the same period, one million of them since January 2018, and estimates are that some 300,000 Venezuelans remained in Ecuadorian territory.

Immigration authorities in Rumichaca told EFE that this week there has been a clear increase in the flow of Venezuelans, which is resulting in long lines and waits of up to 24 hours before people can undertake their immigration procedures.

Carolina Morales is one of the emigrants who had to wait for 24 hours to be able to get her passport stamped in Colombia, but she was able to board one of the buses.

«It was something unplanned, going one moment at a time. I took advantage of the border opening and I came here, and I’ve been going since Saturday,» she told EFE.

Her final destination is Lima, where family members already live, and where she hopes to find work that will pay her enough so that she can find her children in Venezuela and bring them to Peru.

Said Marchan was also able to board one of the buses hoping to reunite with his pregnant wife in Peru to be able to build a «better life» for their son in Chile.

«I want to get my papers in order in Peru because in Venezuela they aren’t helping us get passports or visas; they’re not helping us with anything. … They do everything for cash, and Venezuelans are dying of hunger,» he told EFE.

However, on the other side of the international bridge there are several hundred Venezuelans who are waiting to be able to cross the border and continue their journeys to Peru before they «close the border.»

If a migrant manages to get on one of the buses, it’s a more-than-14-hour ride to Huaquillas, where – if they arrive before Saturday – they will be able to get their passports stamped and continue on to Peru without needing a visa.

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