The number of migrants crossing into Ecuador spiked this past weekend as the government announced new visa requirements for Venezuelans, which came into effect at midday on Monday, August 26.
Figures from Venezuelan news outlet El Estímulo indicate that approximately 13,000 Venezuelans crossed the border into Ecuador from neighboring countries Colombia and Peru over the weekend, with more than 11,000 of those crossings taking place at the Rumichaca bridge, which connects Ecuador and Colombia.
The new regulation requires Venezuelans entering Ecuador to provide proof of a visa which in order to be obtained, requires official documents, a criminal background check and a $50 application fee. The new visa regulations follow a wave of stricter immigration policies as Latin America feels the strain of its worst migration crisis for decades.
According to a news bulletin published by Migración Colombia, the flow of migrants was reported to be “under control,” on Sunday, August 25, as all those at the checkpoint were filtered through. The number of officials working at the border was reported to be approximately 30 percent higher than normal.
In a statement reported by Reuters, Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Trujillo explained that the measure will not stop Venezuelans from crossing the border out of necessity, but instead will increase illegal entries into the country.
Speaking to the news agency, Ecuador’s Deputy Migration Secretary Jhoe Lara reiterated the country’s pledge to increase border security at both official and informal entry points, in a bid to “protect migrants’ safety.”
Yesterday, The Washington Office on Latin America released a statement signed by all working members of the Working Group on Venezuelan Human Mobility which condemns the new visa, claiming that it goes against “international human rights obligations,” as well as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ recommendation not to criminalize Venezuelan migration.
A statement from Migración Colombia General Director Christian Krüger Sarmiento reiterated this sentiment. “We insist that imposing drastic measures such as visas or closing borders is not the solution to tend to a population that is dying of hunger and enduring hardship […] Migration, when it is out of necessity, does not warrant arrest,” he said.
According to research recently conducted by Americas Quarterly with the help of a group of students, there are approximately 263,000 Venezuelans currently living in Ecuador.
Having worked in newsrooms in both Bogotá and Rio de Janeiro, Sophie is a British journalist now based in Medellín and writing for Latin America Reports. She is interested in post-conflict Colombia, historical memory and transitional justice in Latin America. Her work has also been published by Al Jazeera English, World Politics Review, El Tiempo and O Globo.