Social Issues

Peru puts troops on Chilean border to stem migrant flow

Lima, Apr 28 (EFE).- Peru’s government said Friday that the deployment of troops on its southern border with Chile to control the flow of third-country migrants does not constitute militarization of the region, while the speaker of the Chilean Congress urged the creation of a humanitarian corridor.

“It has been said that the presence of the armed forces means to militarize the zone, I rule that entirely,” Peruvian Defense Minister Jorge Chavez said before boarding a plane for the border city of Tacna.

All of the migrants’ interactions will be with police and immigration officials, he said, while the soldiers are to monitor the border from a distance of 100 m (328 ft), as mandated by an existing accord between Lima and Santiago Chavez said that the commander of the Tacna-based 3rd Brigade had already reached out to the Chilean military and established an understanding that the respective armies will maintain the required distance from the border.

Peruvian media disseminated images of troops arriving at the Santa Rosa border post in trucks and armored personnel carriers.

Peru’s foreign ministry is trying to determine “the best mechanism to guarantee the security of the citizens who find themselves at this time in a situation nobody would want,” Chavez said, referring to the migrants trying to cross from Chile.

The government in Lima is weighing the possible opening of a humanitarian corridor, though any such initiative would require the cooperation of the migrants’ countries of origin, he said.

“We can do nothing if we don’t coordinate and have the approval, in this case, of Venezuela, to permit the return of its citizens,” Chavez said, adding that Peruvian officials are also working with the governments of Haiti and Colombia to resolve the situation of migrants from those nations.

Peru has embarked on an effort to keep track of the migrants on its soil “to impose order, to know what they are doing, but principally to avoid criminal acts.”

On Thursday, Peru declared a state of emergency on its borders with Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, and Chile.

“We are not thinking that all the foreign migrants are doing that, but a great part of them are, and we have the obligation as a state, as a government, to protect our citizens,” the defense minister said.

A large contingent of Peruvian immigration officials was at the southern border on Friday to process the migrants, giving priority to families with children, pregnant women, and elderly people.

Amnesty International said that at least 300 people, most of them Venezuelans and Haitians, find themselves stranded on the Chile-Peru border “in a critical humanitarian situation.”

Earlier Friday, amid growing tension between Santiago and Lima, Chilean congressional speaker Vlado Mirosevic proposed a humanitarian corridor to defuse the migrant crisis.

He made the suggestion during a visit to the northern city of Arica, 18 km (11 mi) from the border with Peru.

Peruvian and Chilean politicians have been exchanging barbs since the airing Monday on Peru’s America Television of a report claiming that members of Chile’s security forces have been helping Venezuelan migrants illegally enter Peru.

The mayor of Tacna, Pascual Güisa, said Friday that Chilean President Gabriel Boric is “irresponsible” and accused his government of seeking to “transfer the (migrant) problem to the border.”

EFE dub-jm/dr

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