Chile deployed its army to the northernmost provinces on Feb. 27. There, along Chile’s borders with Peru and Bolivia, the military will assist with identity control and luggage searches of people entering the country. The deployment follows the recent passage of a bill that authorizes the armed forces to take over security tasks at the borders in light of increasing illegal migration.
On Feb. 27, Chile deployed military units to its northern regions in response to the illegal immigration crisis affecting the area. The deployment follows the passage of the Critical Infrastructure Law in January 2023. The law authorized the armed forces to protect critical infrastructure, including borders, in case of “serious danger.”
Soldiers will now be checking identification, searching luggage, and detaining entrants if they cannot show valid identification or if weapons or drugs are found in their luggage. The new law not only enables the armed forces to support the police, but it also includes a “series of new legal tools, resources, and technology.”
The deployment was announced by Interior Minister Carolina Tohá on Feb. 24: “A few minutes ago the Comptroller’s Office acknowledged the Supreme Decree that instructs the deployment of the Armed Forces in the northern border area of our country.” The Minister, who accompanied the forces on their way north, will be monitoring the mission personally.
To help Chileans
According to Tohá, “Chile hasn’t done what it should have done to take control of its borders for a long time now.” She said that the army had been helping for a long time already, with equipment and information, but that, until now, it was not able to act as a primary force.
The army’s task is to help Chileans, and not to completely stop migration, the Interior Minister stressed: “Migration in Chile has a long tradition. We are a country of migrants and we have to recognize that migration is an opportunity to rebuild lives and not to come to ruin the lives of those who are [already] there with crime and reprehensible practices.” Tohá added that it is not forbidden to enter Chile, only to enter through irregular means.
The decision to deploy troops comes in response to a sharp increase in the number of migrants attempting to enter the country illegally. In 2021, the number of foreigners in Chile was estimated to be 1.5 million, double the amount of foreigners in 2017. Of these, a large percentage is Venezuelan (30%). Many others come from Peru, Haiti, and Colombia (12% each).
Chile is also negotiating with Bolivia and Peru to secure their sides of the border, Minister Tohá said.
Matthijs is a newly graduated journalism student from Groningen, the Netherlands. As a starting journalist and aspiring foreign correspondent, he decided to extend his 6-month university exchange in Chile to do an internship at Chile Today. He enjoys writing about a broad range of topics, but international relations, politics and conflicts are his key interests.