Photo: El Venezolano
Volume, speed and diversification of destination are the three characteristics of the massive Venezuelan exodus, one of the largest displacement movements ever seen in the region. Migración Argentina reports that, during the first two months of 2018, an average of 363 Venezuelans entered the country daily, and the number will surely be bigger for Peru, by the end of 2018. Regularization is the door to protection, but if a passport is required, let’s expect irregular migration to become status quo because, passport or no passport, this phenomenon is here to stay.
Let’s expect irregular migration to become status quo because, passport or no passport, this phenomenon is here to stay.
Within their sovereignty, each country of destination for Venezuelans has its own ways of processing their legal status, based on the options available in their migration regime. While Colombia set a commendable example at the beginning of August, with the approval of Decree 1288, Ecuador and Peru decided to change their conditions of entry. In the past, Venezuelans only needed their cédula de identidad to enter, but starting August, 2018 (just as the economic measures were announced), these countries decided to request a passport.
What are the migratory options for Venezuelans in Ecuador?
Back in 2008, the Ecuadorian government eliminated visa requirements to enter the country for transit and tourism; Venezuelans with these in mind have 180 days to apply for any of the visas under the 2017 Organic Law of Human Mobility. Mind you, Ecuador has its own diaspora and, advocating for their nationals’ rights overseas, the country has been a leader in the regional and global debate on human mobility. Its 2017 law also grants foreigners the same rights as Ecuadorian citizens.
There are two specific visa categories that can be requested by Venezuelan nationals: the 2011 Ecuadorian-Venezuelan Migration Statute, that grants temporary residence if economic solvency is demonstrated, and the UNASUR visa (the same UNASUR President Lenin Moreno is threatening to leave), through which nationals of the block can have access to temporary or permanent residence.
Mind you, Ecuador has its own diaspora and, advocating for their nationals’ rights overseas, the country has been a leader in the regional and global debate on human mobility.
These options didn’t require valid passports, only an identity document: the Venezuelan cédula de identidad.
On Thursday, August 16, Ecuador announced that Venezuelans would require passports, starting on August 18, alleging security problems in Venezuelan birth certificates and cédulas. Part of the goal was to prevent human trafficking by ensuring regular migration with regular documents.
Now, there’s tension between the need to ensure a country’s national security and guarantee human rights of migrants and refugees; each nation has the right to find the appropriate balance for its own context, and this right must be respected.
But you must also keep in mind the context of those entering: requiring a passport has all sorts of implications, since it’s easier for a Venezuelan to juggle chainsaws on a skateboard than getting a passport.
Desperate migrants will find a way to cross Ecuador through illegal paths, as they’ll do to cross Peru (also requiring passports, starting on August 25, 2018). Venezuelans will just get stuck at the border and will suffer not only the cold, but also crimes and abuses by those who feed from their vulnerability.
So, Venezuelans should thank the Defensoría del Pueblo del Ecuador.
Because as soon as the passport requirement was announced, the ombudsman questioned it, asserting that “the cruelty of these decisions generate discrimination and xenophobia,” while deepening the tragedy Venezuelans live. The Defensoría presented a request for precautionary measures on behalf of displaced Venezuelans, alleging the imminent risk of violating the right to legal security, equality and non-discrimination.
As soon as the passport requirement was announced, the ombudsman questioned it.
On Friday, August 24, 2018, the measure was suspended for at least 45 days. The judge in charge gave the Foreign Relations’ office that time to prepare an alternative plan.
The next bottleneck is Peru. Ecuador has called for a technical meeting of migration authorities, on September 3, to compare notes. It also called a meeting for September 17-18, 2018, with ten other countries (13 total, including Venezuela), to discuss what each is doing to address the crisis and ensure an orderly migration. The Organization of American States also stands ready to support these regional efforts for coordination, since it’s the main political, juridical and social governmental forum in the hemisphere.
No country can address the Venezuelan migration and refugee crisis alone. At this point, the challenge has become collective, and thus merits collective action. Venezuelan caminantes cannot wait.
* The views are personal and do not represent the position of the OAS.