World

Brazil sends army to border as Venezuelans flee crisis at home

Brazil says it is sending armed forces to maintain order near its border with Venezuela, while Peru declares a health emergency, as a regional crisis sparked by thousands of Venezuelans fleeing economic collapse escalates.

Peru also declares health emergency in 2 northern provinces as migrant influx continues

A Venezuelan migrant holds her passport while waiting to board a bus in Tumbes, Peru, on Saturday. The UN says the recent exodus of Venezuelans to other South American countries is building toward a 'crisis moment.' (Martin Mejia/Associated Press)

Brazil said it was sending armed forces to maintain order near its border with Venezuela, while Peru declared a health emergency, as a regional crisis sparked by thousands of Venezuelans fleeing economic collapse escalated on Tuesday.

In Brazil, where residents rioted and attacked Venezuelan immigrants in a border town earlier this month, President Michel Temer signed a decree to deploy the armed forces to the border state of Roraima. He said the move was aimed at keeping order and ensuring the safety of immigrants.

Meanwhile, Peru declared a 60-day health emergency in two provinces on its northern border, citing "imminent danger" to health and sanitation. The decree, published in the government's official gazette, did not give more details on the risks, but health authorities have previously expressed concerns about the spread of diseases such as measles and malaria from migrants.

The exodus of Venezuelans to other South American countries is building toward a "crisis moment" comparable to events involving refugees in the Mediterranean, the United Nations said this week.

Temer blamed the socialist Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro for the migration crisis.

"The problem of Venezuela is no longer one of internal politics. It is a threat to the harmony of the whole continent," Temer said in a televised address.

Brazilian President Michel Temer on Tuesday blamed the socialist Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro for the migration crisis affecting Brazil and several other South American countries. (AFP/Getty Images)

Top immigration officials from Peru, Colombia and Brazil have been meeting in Colombian capital Bogota for a two-day summit to discuss how to cope with the influx of migrants.

There are close to one million Venezuelans now living in Colombia and more than 400,000 in Peru, the countries said in a joint statement on Tuesday after the meeting. Just 178,000 of those in Peru have legal permission to stay or are being processed.

Colombia and Peru said they would share information about migrants to better track arrivals and distribute aid, 

New measures slow entries

Maduro has warned migrants they face difficult conditions abroad and invited them to return home. On Tuesday, Venezuela said it had repatriated 89 citizens who had migrated to Peru but sought to return after suffering "humiliation and cruel treatment."

Oscar Perez, an activist who works with Venezuelan migrants in Peru, said the repatriation was a publicity stunt by the Venezuelan government.

An official at Peru's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the repatriation, saying the country was focused on regional solutions to address the situation.

Venezuelan migrants walk along the shoulder of the Pan-American Highway on their way to Lima, Peru, on Sunday after crossing the country's border with Ecuador. (Martin Mejia/Associated Press)

This month, Peru and Ecuador began requiring passports instead of national ID cards from Venezuelan migrants. Peru has also tightened deadlines for Venezuelans to sign up for a temporary residency card that lets them work in the country legally.

On Saturday, the first day Peru imposed its passport rule, the number of Venezuelan migrants entering the country fell by more than half to 1,630, according to Peru's immigration agency.

Foreign ministers from Ecuador and Colombia, and possibly Peru and Brazil, will meet to discuss Venezuelan migration in Ecuador next week, said Christian Kruger, the head of Colombia's migration agency.

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