World / Social Issues

Peru declares health emergency at border as exodus out of Venezuela nears ‘crisis moment’

Reuters

Peru on Tuesday declared a health emergency at its northern border as thousands of Venezuelans, fleeing economic crisis and hunger at home, continued to stream into the country despite tightening entry requirements.

In a decree published in the government’s official gazette, Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra declared a 60-day emergency in two provinces on Peru’s northern border, citing “imminent danger” to health and sanitation due to immigration. It did not give more details on the risks.

The exodus of Venezuelans to other South American countries is building toward a “crisis moment” comparable to events involving refugees in the Mediterranean, the United Nations said this week.

Health authorities in Peru have previously expressed concerns about the spread of diseases such as measles and malaria from the migrants, many of whom lacked access to basic medicine and health care in their homeland.

Brazil said earlier this month that the migration wave had sparked measles outbreaks in neighboring countries, including in Brazil where the disease had been considered eradicated.

Top immigration officials from Peru, Colombia and Brazil have been meeting in Colombian capital Bogota for a two-day summit to discuss how to cope with the influx of migrants.

There are close to 1 million Venezuelans now living in Colombia and more than 400,000 in Peru, the countries said in a joint statement on Tuesday after the meeting. Just 178,000 of those in Peru have legal permission to stay or are being processed.

Colombia and Peru will share information about migrants in a database, in an effort to track arrivals and fairly distribute aid, the two countries said. The countries invited others affected by Venezuelan migration to join the initiative.

This month, Peru and Ecuador began requiring passports instead of national ID cards from Venezuelan migrants. Peru has also tightened deadlines for Venezuelans to sign up for a temporary residency card that lets them work in the country legally.

On Saturday, the first day Peru imposed its passport rule, the number of Venezuelan migrants entering the country fell by more than half to 1,630, according to Peru’s immigration agency. But hundreds more without passports entered the country by seeking asylum.

Foreign ministers from Ecuador and Colombia, and possibly Peru and Brazil, will meet to discuss Venezuelan migration in Ecuador next week, said Christian Kruger, the head of Colombia’s migration agency.

Peru has also called for a meeting at the Organization for American States and the United Nations to discuss the topic, Peru’s foreign minister has said.