Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Why were Chilean migrants charged for checking into Chile?

Several countries affected by the Venezuelan migrant crisis have expressed their concern about the recent reports that some migrants who had recently crossed the border into Chile had been charged for “checking”; and the treatment of the migrants that followed.

The Chilean Foreign Minister, Heraldo Munoz, has publicly criticised the unexpected charging of migrants for its treatment, explaining that the charges as well as the manner of the processing, are “unacceptable.”

The migrants charged money to the immigration officials for what is known as checking in, a process at which the migrants verify their identities as well as the documents they carry. Such practices, which use money to facilitate the initial part of the process are known as summary checks or check-ins.

On 28 May, several countries, including Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, the United States and Chile issued statements, expressing their disapproval of the act and condemning the criminal actions involved.

Argentina, Honduras, the Bahamas, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Peru, and the Republic of El Salvador expressed their concern about the situation.

In a statement to INM, Bolivia said, “the acts of any government that subject persons seeking asylum and due process, or those who have sought refuge in Chile, to discriminatory measures and unfair treatment must be condemned, as is happening now in the case of the Brazilian migration authorities”.

In Mexico, the Mexican Human Rights Commission has confirmed that it had received numerous complaints of irregularities in the processing and payment of migrants, primarily from Venezuelans who arrived in Mexico a few weeks ago.

Ecuador’s President, Lenin Moreno, had stated, “The immigration authorities must go back to the beginning of the procedure and not do this type of thing that is tarnishing the image of the Chilean Government.”

The US government has called the issuing of the charges “not consistent with the commitment Chile has made to provide assistance to refugees”.

In Peru, the governor of the border province of Moche, Juan Orellana, has called on the Venezuelan government to provide him with information about the issue and in an interview with the public broadcaster NTN24 stated that the reports about the migrant checks were “slanderous, irresponsible and unacceptable”.

In Colombia, deputy director of the the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Adeena Melhem, described the situation as “perplexing” and stressed that “UNHCR’s main concern is the proper processing of migrants entering Colombia and respecting human rights”.

In Venezuela, the justice minister and public security minister met with ministers for the interior and foreign affairs, the UN refugee agency and a sub-agency for migrants’ affairs to investigate how the immigration authorities were handling the repatriation process.

The minister for migrants’ affairs, Edwin Muccio, said that, “We will not agree to any forced or unjust repatriation in the case of refugees,” and called for dialogue between the Venezuelan and Chilean authorities.

Among the ways that the National Commission for Defence and Integration (CENIDEM) has been conducting the repatriation process are “civic efforts” in which the migrants meet with local leaders and obtain information, as well as returning them to their communities.

There are more than 53,000 Venezuelans who have been repatriated from the border countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and Chile since 2015.

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