Chilean soldiers talk with migrants before taking them to a shelter where police search them, near Colchane, Chile, Wednesday, March 1, 2023. The government announced an increased military presence on the border with Peru and Bolivia. as a measure to curb illegal immigration. (AP Photo/Ignacio Munoz)
SANTIAGO (AP) — The intensification of control on the northern border of Chile with Peru and Bolivia with several hundred soldiers stationed in the area, as a measure to curb massive illegal immigration, reduced the incessant arrival of undocumented foreigners but also affected the residents of the border area.
“The military is fine, giving orders is their duty, I understand,” said Flora García, a resident of Colchane, a small town some 2,000 kilometers north of the Chilean capital on Wednesday. “But also that they understand us, that they not become closed,” the woman claimed about the demand that the border crossing necessarily be done through the control zone.
Almost daily hundreds of people cross from one country to another to shop or sell their products, without going through any red tape, but now with the military they are having some problems. García affirmed that the uniformed officers tell them that the border has been closed, “but it is not like that.” Several have said that they have been detained, despite explaining that they are used to moving between Chile, Peru and Bolivia.
The mayor of Colchane, Javier García, explained to The Associated Press that “migrants are entering through sectors much further away from border control,” that is, 15 or 20 kilometers from that community that, for a long time, seemed crowded. by foreigners. Many were camping on beaches and in some of the main squares in cities like Iquique, 1,800 kilometers to the north.
Just over 330 soldiers were deployed at the beginning of the week in the northern regions of Arica and Parinacota, Tarapacá and Antofagasta to collaborate with the police in controlling illegal immigrants, a problem that the government of President Gabriel Boric has not been able to solve since who came to power a year ago. They have arrested an unknown number of people.
Boric, with the support of Congress, gave the military powers they didn’t have and can now conduct identity checks, search luggage and even detain those they suspect of committing crimes. Several foreigners, including several families, have been detained by the uniformed officers, who are obliged to hand them over to the police within a maximum period of 24 hours.
Army second lieutenant Claudio Guzmán explained to AP that “the job we have with the police is to provide technology and transportation to control illegal migration and drug trafficking.”
The decree to use the armed forces in border control lasts 90 days and, with the backing of Congress, can be extended for another three months.
Undocumented foreigners are transferred back to Peru or Bolivia through the same irregular passage through which they entered, but in the case of the La Paz government, it only receives its compatriots and rejects the others. Bolivia broke diplomatic relations with Chile in 1978 and there are only consular ties.
The government affirms that it is not prohibited to enter Chile and that what is not accepted is to cross through illegal steps.
The military presence on the border was requested by local authorities in northern cities.
A Chilean soldier helps a young migrant into a military truck near Colchane, Chile, Wednesday, March 1, 2023, as soldiers take a migrant family to a shelter where police search. The government announced an increase in the presence of the military on the border with Peru and Bolivia as a measure to curb illegal immigration. (AP Photo/Ignacio Munoz)Chilean soldiers talk with migrants before taking them to a shelter where police search them, near Colchane, Chile, Wednesday, March 1, 2023. The government announced an increased military presence on the border with Peru and Bolivia. as a measure to curb illegal immigration. (AP Photo/Ignacio Munoz)
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