Colombia to install electronic readers at Venezuela borders

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will install electronic readers on doors at border controls with Venezuela to identify valid passports and entry visas in a bid to better monitor thousands of people fleeing an economic and social crisis in the oil producing nation.

Scanners will be fitted at the seven border crossings between the two nations, the director of migration, Christian Kruger, told Reuters on Friday.

The legal daily entry of Venezuelan migrants into Colombia has fallen by 30 percent in the last two weeks, the migration agency said on Thursday, after the government imposed stricter border controls.

More than half a million Venezuelans were living in Colombia as of the end of last year, fleeing runaway inflation and malnutrition. Over 60 percent of Venezuelans said that during the previous three months they had woken up hungry because they did not have enough money to buy food, according to a university study.

“Colombians or Venezuelans who wants to enter or leave our country present the document and a technological system authorizes or denies the next step,” Kruger said via telephone from the frontier city of Cucuta.

“What we want with these doors is to continue improving our process of immigration control.”

Two weeks ago, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos announced tougher migratory controls along the 2,219 km (1,379-mile) border, temporarily suspending the issuance of new daily entry cards for Venezuelans and deploying 3,000 new security personnel.

Entry at all migration checkpoints fell from an average of 48,000 per day to 35,000 per day, the agency said.

Kruger said armed forces had stepped up control on illegal crossings and destroyed several entry points used to enter the country for migration and smuggling.

“We don’t want to impede the migratory flow, but we want it done in an orderly manner,” he said.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Bernadette Baum