Social Issues

Thousands march in northern Chile to protest migrant influx

Santiago, Sep 25 (EFE).- A march Saturday in the northern Chilean city of Iquique to demand action to halt an influx of undocumented migrants was followed by the burning of tents and personal effects of foreigners camped out on beaches and public squares.

Waving Chilean flags and holding up signs reading “No more illegals,” some 5,000 people, according to police, took part in the demonstration in Iquique, the regional capital.

Participants include some people who made the trip from Colchane, the border town that is the first stop for migrants sneaking across from Bolivia.

“We want the government … to talk with our communities and set policies and clear actions in regard to providing us with security and also respecting our rights as Aymaras,” Colchane Mayor Javier Garcia said.

“Just as the migrants enjoy international protection, we indigenous peoples of Chile also enjoy protection of international rights,” he said.

The protest concluded with an attack on tents belonging to some of the estimated 3,500 migrants sleeping outdoors in the city.

News of the incidents in Iquique sparked condemnation.

“Unaccepted humiliation of especially vulnerable migrants,” was how the United Nations special rapporteur for the human rights of migrants, law professor Felipe Gonzalez, described the events.

“The xenophobic discourse, likening migration to criminality, that has unfortunately becoming more frequent in Chile nourishes this kind of barbarism,” he wrote on Twitter.

In comments to Efe, a representative of the Jesuit Migrant Service, Carlos Figueroa, said that violence was not the answer to a “humanitarian problem.”

“We call on everyone to respect the integrity and dignity of all persons and, above all, we call on everyone to respect and protect the human rights of children and adolescents,” he said.

Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Delgado said that the government will reinforce the northern border with additional personnel and equipment “to be able to stop the passage of people who want to enter Chile in a clandestine way.”

On Friday, a large detachment of Carabineros – Chile’s militarized national police force – dismantled a camp set up by around 100 migrants on a square in the center of Iquique.

Authorities say that roughly 1.4 million migrants are currently in Chile, a figure equivalent to 7 percent of the country’s population. EFE ssb/dr

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