Chilean Diocese concerned for Venezuelan migrants at border crossing

The Diocese of San Marcos de Arica expressed Monday its concern over the humanitarian conditions of hundreds of people, mostly Venezuelans, held up at the Chacalluta border crossing between Peru and Chile.

Jun 27, 2019

ARICA, CHILE: The Diocese of San Marcos de Arica expressed Monday its concern over the humanitarian conditions of hundreds of people, mostly Venezuelans, held up at the Chacalluta border crossing between Peru and Chile.

Chile recently imposed stricter controls on those entering its territory, as the number of Venezuelan emigrants swells. More than 4 million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015.

Since June 22, to enter Chile a passport with visa, proof of the money to support one's stay, and a letter of invitation or a hotel reservation are required.

Since 2018, for residency there is required a temporary residency visa valid for one year and renewable for the same period, no criminal record, and other documents.

Immigrants at the Chacalluta border control would have to process their documents at the Chilean consulate in Tacna, fewer than 25 miles north of the site.

In a June 24 statement, the Arica diocese said that among the 700 people at the crossing, “lamentably there are children of all ages who urgently need better care, pregnant women, sick people suffering  from inclement weather out in the open, unable to resolve their migration problems.”

That day Bishop Moisés Carlos Atisha Contreras, along with his vicar general, Mauricio Cáceres, and Fr. Isaldo Bettin, head of the Chilean Catholic Institute for Migration in Arica, went to the site to “see firsthand the situation experienced by our Venezuelan brothers and sisters.”

"We talked with the central and local government authorities, but the most important thing was to listen to the stories of those affected and to pray with them so that humanitarian solutions with concrete actions could be sought as soon as possible."

“We have to understand the migration reality in the world from principles of humanity, and we are constantly challenged as a society to look for ways to treat people with the dignity proper to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus we put into practice what the Gospel mandates, 'I was a migrant [sic] and you welcomed me.'”

The statement noted that the government authorized the entrance of families with underage children, while institutions such as INCAMI, the Jesuit Migrant Service, the National Human Rights Institute, the Scalabrini Foundation and other migrant associations, consulates, and individuals are providing humanitarian aid.

Different civil society organizations issued a letter in turn expressing the hope that “the states in the region provide a coordinated response commensurate with the situation of the Venezuelans. They're not people invading countries, but families seeking to survive,” they said.

“While  the efforts of the consulates in giving timely responses are appreciated … extraordinary measures must be jointly taken that adapt to the situation the people are going through that need protection, instead of imposing requirements that not everyone has the possibility of fulfilling.”

Millions of Venezuelans have emigrated in recent years, as under the socialist administration of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages and hyperinflation.

Some 1.3 Venezuelan emigrants are being hosted by Colombia, and some 800,000 are in Peru.

In a move to restrict the flow of immigrants, Peru mandated June 15 that Venezuelans have a passport and visa to enter the country; previously, only a national ID card was needed.--CNA

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