By Daniela Carrasco.
The Organization of American States delegate for the Venezuelan migratory crisis, David Smolansky, complained about the deportation of 100 Venezuelan illegal immigrants by Chile, estimating that these “deportations will not stop the human avalanche of Venezuelans.”
Some 5.5 million Venezuelans have exited their country since at least 2013, the year Nicolas Maduro first took over.
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Meanwhile, relatives of Venezuelans deported on Tuesday by Chile say the migrants got played by Chilean authorities into coming forward and admitting their illegal status. They were promised they could stay if they did, but only facilitated their deportation, they explain.
“They manipulated them,” Luis Melendez, whose brother was deported, told the Chilean Cooperativa news web site. His claim was supported by the National Institute of Human Rights of Chile, which pointed out that the expulsion was carried out under deception by Chilean authorities.
Migrants were cajoled into signing a document that not only identified them as illegal immigrants but to fill it out in a way in which they waived their right to appeal the expulsion, the source stated. “They thought (what they were signing) it was a document to get out of that shelter,” Melendez said, according to Cooperativa.
“They made them sign the (expulsion) document but without explaining absolutely nothing to them. There was a text that said if they wanted to appeal, should mark yes. But when they got to that part, the Chilean police officers told them to mark no. In that aspect, they manipulated them,” denounced Melendez.
Julio Borges, the foreign affairs commissioner of the Juan Guaido government, expressed via Twitter that the decision is not in line with international agreements that protect refugees. “The Chilean government decision is not right with the behavior assumed by democratic Venezuelan governments that received hundreds of Chileans fleeing the most brutal dictatorships and who made our country their second homeland,” he wrote to his social media.
“Nor does it conform to the international agreements signed by Chile in terms of refugee protection. This human drama will not stop with restrictions that further expose the lives of Venezuelans. The solution is not to deport, it is to multiply efforts to achieve the departure of Maduro.”
The OAS’ David Smolansky pointed out that deportations are not the solution to the Venezuelan exodus.
“Deportations are not going to stop the human exodus of Venezuelans. They are not emigrating voluntarily, they are forcibly fleeing the dictatorship. They are refugees. Those with criminal records, may the full weight of the law fall on them, but for a few, many innocent people cannot pay,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
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Venezuelan Association in Chile
Patricia Rojas, president of the Association of Venezuelans in Chile, expressed that they expected the Chilean government to be more supportive of the situation of Venezuelan migrants.
“We expected more solidarity, as did the government of Colombia, which announced the Temporary Statute of Protection for Migrants,” she told the newspaper, El Mercurio.
National Coordinator of Immigrants of Chile
The national coordinator for the defense of human rights of the migrant population in Chile expressed that the expelled Venezuelans require protection of the state due to the humanitarian crisis their country is going through.
“Cruel and inhuman has been the expulsion carried out this February 10, developed under summary procedures that not only did not guarantee the right to due process or the right to seek refuge but also used the sanitary residences as detention centers. Surrounding them with police officers of investigations, preventing people who had medical discharges to withdraw from these spaces and retaining their identity documents,” said the Chilean NGO.
Meanwhile, the wish of Melendez of being reunited with his brother was over by deception, he claims. He is a Venezuelan that has lived in Chile for several years now. He hoped that his brother, who arrived in the Chilean border town of Colchane on January 30 from Bolivia, would be allowed to stay legally after being quarantined at the Centenario School in Iquique. But instead, the younger Melendez was expelled early Wednesday morning, February 10.
“They took my younger brother from me, whom I have not seen for years and who walked practically from Colombia (…) They arrived at two in the morning, woke everyone up telling them to show their documents, and demanding that they sign the expulsion,” Melendez added.
Deportation under deception
The complaint of Melendez was supported by the National Institute of Human Rights (Indh). The organization detailed that officers of the Chilean Investigative Police told them that they were making a record of all the people there, so everyone had to sign it, even though they were not allowed to read.
Subsequently, the Venezuelans who remained in the Centenario School in Iquique were notified that they had 24 hours to complain to the Supreme Court. “In addition to the above, officials then retained the documents and passports of the protected persons,” emphasizes the Indh in the article published by the Chilean media Cooperativa.
The brother of the Venezuelan expelled from Chile confirms this version. “They believed that it was a document to leave the shelter”, he expressed.
From Venezuela to Chile
Luis Melendez told Venezuelan news site Efecto Cocuyo that his brother lived in Yaracuy, from where he left a year ago; first to Colombia, where he stayed for several months, but then decided to go to Chile with seven other migrants.
“He walked more in Bolivia. He told me he had to walk seven hours, but he had to turn back. He had to ask a truck driver for a ride to return because, after seven hours, he was very thirsty and cold, and he could not find a place to stay. The next day he was able to reach the border with Chile”, he told the Venezuelan digital media.
Currently, the only legal way for Venezuelans to enter Chile is by obtaining consular visas, the VRD, and the Tourist visa, unless they already have a residence in Chile.
However, the application process for these visas was suspended until further notice. To make matters worse, in case of having these documents, entry to the southern country is only possible by air since the land borders are closed due to the emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic.