Human Rights NATIONAL

Amnesty International: Chile violates international agreements through its treatment of refugees

By imposing entry barriers that are nearly ‘impossible’ to overcome, Chile forsakes its international obligation to protect the lives of people fleeing from Venezuela. That can be read in a new report published by Amnesty International on March 7. The precarious situation that Venezuelan women are in is especially worrying, the organization writes. 

Amnesty International criticized Chile’s government for its failure to ensure the safety of Venezuelan refugees. In the report “No one wants to live in hiding,” based on testimonies by 12 Venezuelan woman, the organization concludes that Chile fails to fulfill its duty of ensuring the protection of immigrants entering the country. In doing so, it violates the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, to which Chile is a signatory.   

 Amnesty identified several measures imposed by the government that prevent refugees from accessing regular migration status in Chile. Difficulties to formalize the migration status leaves Venezuelans in Chile effectively without any international protection. The lack of migratory regularization is especially troublesome for Venezuelan women, exposing them to a greater risk of gender-based violence, the report states.

“It’s unfortunate that the main countries hosting Venezuelan refugees in the world are failing in their obligation to guarantee protection to those who flee Venezuela,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International. “We had already documented the enormous challenges in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador; and now we have shown that the Chilean government, far from breaking this trend and granting them international protection or migratory regularization, has for years been establishing an insurmountable obstacle course to prevent them settling in the country.”

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Preventing refugees from entering 

As a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocol, Chile has the binding obligation to protect refugees on their (the party’s) territory. However, as Amnesty points out, it has put into place a series of measures that effectively prevent refugees from entering the country. Refugees are forced to enter through “insecure and unauthorized border crossings,” but are simultaneously required to report themselves to authorities in the case of irregular entry. Once in the country, the difficulty to obtain the regular migration status puts them under a continuous risk of immediate expulsion.

Other measures pinpointed by the human rights organization are the imposition of “impossible” requirement to obtain an entry visa, (the illegal) denial of entry at the border, and the lack of information provided to refugees about their right to request international protection. Through these measures, the state of Chile denies refugees possibilities to exercise their fundamental rights and “condemns them to a situation of a total lack of protection.” In doing so, Chile “exacerbates the risks for particularly vulnerable people, such as women who experience gender-based violence,” Amnesty writes.

Amnesty calls upon the Chilean government to safeguard the rights of Venezuelan refugees, and to guarantee “effective and non-discriminatory access for everyone in need of protection.” To do so, they urge the authorities “to immediately cease the unlawful practice” of obliging people to report themselves in case of irregular entry, and to respect the “prohibition of rejection at the border.”


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