NGOs and authorities blame government after Iquique migrant camp attack

Burned tents, clothes and mattresses. The few things a group of Venezuelan migrants had were taken by participants of an anti-immigration march and thrown into a fire. International organizations and local authorities blame the government and its absence in resolving tensions that have been simmering for years.

An anti-immigration march in the northern city of Iquique has generated disturbing images.

On Saturday, a group of protesters attacked a migrant camp and burned belongings such as tents, clothes, a pram and blankets. The Carabineros police force dislodged the migrants from their encampment but did nothing to prevent the attacks. Marchers chanted racist slurs while waving flags.

The mainly Venezuelan migrants, camping near the airport, were waiting to leave the country. “They burned all our belongings, all our papers, they took one of my dogs. We were about 30 Venezuelans, who were waiting to leave,” a migrant told news outlet “The police took us away and did not give us a chance to take anything, nothing, nothing … everything was taken away, they burned it. We lost our documents, which is the most important thing.”

Northern regions have been dealing with massive immigration for years. Haitian, Venezuelan, Peruvian and Bolivian migrants are crossing the border through the desert, after paying large sums of money to smugglers, looking for work and a better future in Chile. So far, the government hasn’t dealt with the problem. Tarapacá governor José Miguel Carvajal told CNN Chile, “This has an origin: it is the invitation from the president [in Cúcuta], who wanted to establish himself internationally as a person who generated asylum. He told these migrants there was going to be a visa of democratic responsibility. The ineptitude of President Piñera and the incapacity of his government cannot be hidden.”

Urging State of Emergency

International organizations such as the UN also criticized the xenophobic and racist language often used by Chilean politicians when discussing illegal migration. The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González, called the violent acts during the march an “inadmissible humiliation against especially vulnerable migrants, affecting them in the most personal way. The xenophobic discourse, equating migration to crime, which unfortunately has become more and more frequent in Chile, feeds this kind of barbarism.”

Local authorities from the opposition are urging the government to declare an emergency in the zone to allocate resources and deal with the humanitarian crisis. Discussing the violence committed during the march, the government said it would prosecute those responsible for burning the belongings. The investigative police in the city has been ordered to take up the case. It will revise security cameras to identify suspects, while a local judge has declared an order of protection for the migrants in the city to avoid future attacks.


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