Peru tightens border entry as refugees flee Venezuela

Latin America

Peru is one of the countries that has tightened entry requirements for Venezuelan migrants fleeing economic hardships at home.

Venezuelans entering the country are now required to show their passports but that’s not stopping thousands from trying to get in.

CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports from Peru’s northern border.

After Colombia, Peru is the South American country with the largest number of Venezuelan migrants. Officially, there are more than 430,000 citizens living in the country but the actual number is likely higher. Faced with a migration flood, Peru is requiring all Venezuelans must enter with a passport.

Since last month, the numbers crossing its northern border with Ecuador have dropped by half.

“The situation is critical; the insecurity, the lack of medicine and food, there’s no control over the prices, any product can triple in price in 24 hours. We sold the house, we sold the car and we left because there’s no future there,” Dennis Hernandez a refugee said.

However, Peru cannot turn away those who don’t have passports if they claim refugee status. Peru’s foreign ministry said out of more than 120,000 asylum claims, just 150 have been granted so far. That’s just a little more than one person for every one thousand applications.

“There is a paradigm that needs to be shifted. Right now the main approach of the government is to see this as a migratory crisis where the majority of the people that are coming here are economic migrants and only a few are being considered refugees under specific definitions that the government is using. I think it’s the other way around. The majority of people that are coming from Venezuela should be seen as refugees and a small number would not fit those definitions,” said Alonso Gurmendi, a professor of international law at Lima’s Pacific University.

Gurmendi argues Peru should broaden how it defines refugee status. He says it would be unfair to expel Venezuelans whose applications are rejected. So far, Peru has given temporary residency permits to nearly 100,000 Venezuelans which means they can work and study.

Asylum applicants can also apply for temporary residency. Under the current rules, it’s their best chance of staying in the country.