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Venezuelan refugees line up at Peruvian border as immigration deadline looms over

Wednesday, October 31st 2018 - 18:51 UTC
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Peruvian government offices in Tumbes (photo) are crammed with Venezuelan refugees seeking residency cards. Peruvian government offices in Tumbes (photo) are crammed with Venezuelan refugees seeking residency cards.

As Peru's deadline for granting residency nears, 6,000 Venezuelans lined up at the border Peru's Tuesday hoping to be allowed in, while 4,000 more are expected to join in the next two days, according to the ombudsman's office.

With around 500,000 Venezuelan refugees, the Peruvian government had to stop being as generous as in the early days of the exodus and move the deadline for legal immigration from the end of the year to the end of October and toughen other travel requirements such as the need of a passport.

Peru was one of the first countries to offer temporary residency to Venezuelans seeking a better life by land through Colombia and Ecuador.

Abel Chiroque, the head of the ombudsman's office in the town of Tumbes near the Ecuadorean border said that the “demand for services is overwhelming ... the capacity to respond has collapsed.”

Chiroque mentioned that some migrants have been waiting for around 24 hours, which is why he had asked the government to distribute tickets to Venezuelans in line when the deadline closes, so they can be eligible for the residency cards later.

But Peru's abilty to help is not endless. President Martin Vizcarra said Monday that his country could no longer afford to grant residency to Venezuelans indefinitely.

The United Nations estimate some 1.9 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015, 90% of them to other South American destinations.

The Venezuelan government has launched the Vuelta a la Patria (Return to the Homeland) programme, which consists of free flights for refugees who have not found what they were looking for abroad. According to official figures, some 8,832 Venezuelans have turned back since August under this scheme, which imposes no condition on those citizens who choose to accept it.

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