Peru on Saturday closed its borders to Venezuelan migrants without a passport, as thousands holding only identification cards reached the border in a last minute crush, some beating the deadline with special assistance from Ecuador.
Thousands of Venezuelans fleeing their country’s spiraling economic and political crisis rushed towards the Peruvian border after last week’s announcement from Lima that they had one week to enter before a passport would be required.
The flood of Venezuelans at Peru’s northern border crossing at Tumbes was so overwhelming that the station — normally open 24 hours a day — closed at midnight Friday (0500 GMT Saturday) when the new rules came into effect.
The lucky ones already in line were handed tickets and told they could still enter without a passport when the border crossing reopens at sunrise.
Ecuador opened a “humanitarian corridor” on Friday and lifted its own entry restrictions to facilitate the Venezuelans’ travels to Peru.
Interior Minister Mauro Toscanini said that 35 busloads of migrants were on the move along the route authorities had opened to Peru.
“We got here because the Ecuadorans brought us aboard five buses under escort,” a grateful Virginia Velasquez, 36, told AFP. She managed to slip into Peru just minutes before midnight.
“Thank god I’m in Peru,” added 15 year-old Felipe Fernandez, who arrived with his parents and a brother.
Peru is one of the region’s fastest growing economies with 4.7 percent growth projected for next year.