Venezuelan migrants walk before snowcapped mountains in the outskirts of Pisiga, Bolivia, on their way to Colchane, Chile

Peru/Chile: Authorities must end militarization of borders in response to arrival of people in need of protection

In light of the action taken by the governments of Chile and Peru to militarize their borders, and the state of emergency declared yesterday by President Boluarte’s government in Peru in response to the arrival of migrants, largely from Venezuela and Haiti, Amnesty International wishes to remind both governments that this is a crisis of people in need of international protection, people who require a comprehensive plan of assistance that places human rights at the heart of both governments’ responses.

“By militarizing their borders and closing the door to thousands of people fleeing massive human rights violations in their home countries, including children, the Boric and Boluarte administrations are needlessly exacerbating the situation and creating a humanitarian crisis with increased risk to the lives and safety of these people,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

Since the start of February 2023, the Chilean government has deployed troops along its borders with Bolivia and Peru in order to prevent the arrival of undocumented people, mostly Venezuelans, into the country. The closure of the border has led to high tensions in recent weeks. On Wednesday 26 April, the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency in seven border departments and ordered the deployment of its armed forces. These measures have been adopted against a backdrop of increasing stigmatization and xenophobia, and legislative debates that seek to criminalize irregular migration.

It is estimated that at least 300 people, including families with children and teenagers, pregnant women and the chronically sick, are stranded on the border between Peru and Chile in a critical humanitarian situation without food, water, shelter or health care in a desert known for its extreme conditions. Most of these people are from Venezuela but the presence of Haitians and other nationalities has also been reported.

When states resort to unilateral measures contrary to international human rights law, they set off a domino effect.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director, Amnesty International

Amnesty International is deeply concerned at the absolute uncertainty in which these people find themselves as a result of cruel and dehumanizing policies implemented in violation of international standards and laws in Peru and Chile for the protection of people in need of international protection.

The organization recalls that Venezuelans are leaving their country as a result of massive human rights violations, repeatedly documented by international mechanisms, and that the governments of Chile and Peru are therefore obliged to provide protection and guarantee the right to seek asylum, in accordance with international treaties ratified by both countries and transposed into their legislation.

Amnesty International has furthermore indicated that Haitians cannot be returned to their country because of the severe humanitarian and human rights crisis ongoing there, which includes widespread violence, political instability, food insecurity and a health system on the verge of collapse. International law prohibits a country from denying entry to persons in need of international protection or forcibly returning them to their country of origin.

“When states resort to unilateral measures contrary to international human rights law, they set off a domino effect. Instead of applying measures that punish those seeking international protection and better living conditions, Chile and Peru should be cooperating to provide a humanitarian and rights-based response to those who are arriving and the communities that are receiving them. Militarizing the borders endangers not only refugees and migrants, but also the people living in those areas,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

To address the crisis, it is essential that the Chilean and Peruvian authorities immediately revive and adapt their systems for processing asylum applications. According to information received, no applications have been processed in Peru since 2020. Amnesty International recently documented the fact that the Chilean authorities were implementing practices and policies that are preventing people in need of international protection from accessing refuge in Chile, in violation of their human rights.

According to the R4V platform, more than 7.23 million Venezuelans have had to leave their country in recent years, fleeing crimes against humanity, massive human rights violations and a complex humanitarian crisis. Approximately 1.5 million of them are in Peru, and 444,000 in Chile.