Ecuador, Peru tighten entry requirements for Venezuelans as influx swells

QUITO/LIMA (Reuters) - Venezuelans entering Ecuador and Peru will soon be required to show their passports, rather than national identity cards, the Ecuadorean government and Peruvian official sources said on Thursday, amid concerns over an influx of economic migrants.

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Ecuador and Peru have hitherto allowed Venezuelans to enter using national ID cards, providing desperate Venezuelans with an easier route out of their crisis stricken homeland.

“As of this Saturday the government will require that anyone entering Ecuador present his or her passport,” Ecuador’s Interior Minister Mauro Toscanini said. The Foreign Ministry later said it would apply specifically to Venezuelans.

Ecuador declared a state of emergency in three provinces this month after a spike in Venezuelan migrants crossing the Ecuadorean-Colombian border high in the Andean mountains.

Authorities said up to 4,500 Venezuelans were crossing daily, compared with around 500 to 1,000 previously.

An official at Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry told local radio that some 600,000 Venezuelans had entered the country so far this year, with around 109,000 staying on.

Unable to afford flights and often earning a minimum wage of just a few dollars a month, Venezuelans have been taking days-long bus rides across South America, many passing through Ecuador on their way south to Peru or Chile.

Peru is also planning to require passports from Venezuelans soon, two government sources said on condition of anonymity ahead of a pending announcement.

Immigration officials estimated that there are nearly 400,000 Venezuelans in Peru, most of whom entered this year.

About 20 percent of Venezuelans enter Peru without a passport, Peru’s interior minister said earlier this week.

Venezuelans selling food or knick-knacks on the streets have become a common sight in Lima and Quito, raising fears among locals that the migrants could take their jobs and increase crime.

Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno is left-wing like his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro, but he has distanced himself from Caracas since taking office last year.

Centrist Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra took office in March after his predecessor, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a vocal critic of Maduro, resigned in a scandal.

(This version of the story removes incorrect reference in second paragraph to Venezuela being a member of the Andean Community.)

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia and Mitra Taj, Writing by Alexandra Ulmer and Mitra Taj, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien & Simon Cameron-Moore