BOGOTA (Reuters) – Officials from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru will meet in Bogota next week to seek a solution to a growing exodus of migrants overwhelming South American countries as they flee a devastating economic crisis in Venezuela.
The head of Colombia’s migration authority, Christian Kruger, said in a statement on Thursday the three nations would meet on Monday and Tuesday to discuss problems caused by thousands of Venezuelans who cross borders each day and the impact of recently implemented passport controls by Peru and Ecuador.
“The exodus of Venezuelan citizens is not a problem exclusive to Colombia, Peru, Ecuador or a single country. This is a regional problem and as such we must address it,” Kruger said.
In the past two weeks, both Ecuador and Peru have announced tighter entry rules for Venezuelans, requiring them to carry valid passports instead of just national ID cards. In Brazil, rioters drove hundreds of migrants back over the border.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Peru’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that Lima was calling for a meeting of the permanent council of the Organization of American States to discuss Venezuelan migration.
More than a million Venezuelan migrants have entered Colombia over the past 15 months, according to official estimates, but Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Brazil have also received many migrants.
The statement said the new passport measures had cut the number of Venezuelans crossing legally through passport controls in Colombia but increased the number crossing borders illegally.
“Demanding passports from a nation that does not have them and whose government does not facilitate the issuance of this document is to encourage irregularity,” Kruger said.
Over the past two years, many Venezuelans have struggled to obtain passports amid the OPEC nation’s political and economic chaos.
A growing wave of migrants has inundated border towns and flooded some Latin American job markets with low-skilled Venezuelans desperate for work in order to send money back to their homeland.
With the International Monetary Fund forecasting that Venezuela’s inflation could reach 1 million percent by year’s end, malnutrition is on the rise, as a monthly minimum wage that amounts to a few U.S. dollars puts basic products like chicken out of reach for many.
(Reporting by Helen Murphy; Additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas and Mitra Taj in Lima; Editing by Peter Cooney)