Santiago, Nov 4 (EFE).- Chile’s government on Thursday carried out its biggest deportation operation of 2021, expelling 120 Colombian and Venezuelan migrants via charter flight.
The move is part of a broader strategy that aims to discourage irregular migration by sending 1,500 people back to their home countries by year’s end.
“There are attempts by organizations to stop these expulsions, but the Chilean government and the Interior Ministry are upholding the law, and foreigners who commit crimes or enter clandestinely will be expelled,” the director of Chile’s National Migration Service, Alvaro Bellolio, said.
Venezuelans accounted for most of the deportees (more than 70), who were sent back home either for entering Chile illegally or committing crimes that range from migrant trafficking to aggravated robbery to homicide, according to official information.
Due in large part to a law signed in April by conservative President Sebastian Piñera that requires foreigners to obtain visas in their countries of origin, more than 800 people have been deported on seven different flights this year.
Various migrant advocacy groups, organizations such as New York-based Human Rights Watch and the United Nations have harshly criticized those expulsions and warned of serious violations of foreigners’ basic rights.
HRW has denounced summary deportations carried out on weekends (when appeals courts are closed), migrants’ inability to make telephone calls or access an attorney and family separations.
The Supreme Court has annulled various deportation orders in recent months due to insufficiencies in the contested administrative procedure, but in nearly every case the migrant had already been expelled.
Piñera’s administration says it has worked in recent months with that high court to establish and fine-tune deportation criteria and protocols and that only those stemming from the new migration law are now applicable.
The government has touted that law as necessary to bring more order to the situation of its foreign-born population, who despite the pandemic and the social crisis that erupted in Chile in 2019 still see that country as an attractive destination due to its political and economic stability.
Experts, meanwhile, say tighter border security is causing more people to make their way into the country via crossings that are ill-equipped to handle a greater migrant influx.
That has been the case in northern Chile, where the entry of thousands of migrants in recent months has sparked anti-immigration protests.
Nearly 1.4 million migrants are estimated to live in Chile – equivalent to 7 percent of the population. The Venezuelan community is the most numerous with around 450,000 people, followed by Peruvian and Haitian expatriates. EFE