AMERICA/CHILE - The Bishops of Antofagasta denounce the detention, harassment and deportation of Venezuelan migrants

Monday, 7 June 2021

Antofagasta (Agenzia Fides) - "As Bishops of the Catholic Church in the Norte Grande, we ask for respect for the rule of law that should govern all the actions of State agencies, even more so when it comes to measures that affect the freedom of movement of the people who inhabit the national territory. A procedure in accordance with the law is not an option in a democratic State such as the Republic of Chile, regardless of whether the people involved are citizens of other countries".
The request is contained in the statement that the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Antofagasta published on the afternoon of Saturday, June 5 2021, expressing "rejection and concern about the various episodes of detention, deportation and harassment that the migrant population of the Norte Grande has suffered by the State Administration".
The text, sent to Agenzia Fides, is signed by the Bishops Ignacio Ducasse Medina, Archbishop of Antofagasta; Moisés Atisha Contreras, Bishop of San Marcos de Arica; Guillermo Vera Soto, Bishop of Iquique and Óscar Blanco Martínez, Bishop of San Juan Bautista de Calama. The prelates recall that since February they have witnessed "with great regret, situations of detention and deportation suffered by migrants, mainly of Venezuelan nationality". With special apprehension, they have also heard the Government's announcement that 15 deportation flights will be carried out during 2021, the first of which was carried out on April 25 in the city of Iquique. "Unfortunately, this operation was repeated this Friday and Saturday, setting the deportation for Sunday, June 6, transferring the detainees from Santiago and other places to Iquique, to be finally taken to Venezuela".
The Bishops denounce: "we have learned that the current detention and deportation processes have registered important legal flaws", recalling that the Supreme Court "has repeatedly declared the illegality of the administrative acts that expel migrants and the way in which this was carried out".
In their statement, the Bishops also underline that these deportations are carried out within the deadline set by the new Migration and Foreigners Law, so that
migrants who have entered the country illegally can leave it voluntarily. "Expelling people in this scenario means turning the content of the transitional Article 8 into a dead letter. Especially since the country's land borders are closed and the conditions for leaving Chile for other destinations remain extremely difficult and expensive due to the pandemic" .
Finally, they express great concern because most of the people affected by these migration policies are Venezuelan citizens, "most of whom have left their country of origin under practically forced conditions, becoming people who require special protection from the international organizations and certainly from our country", for this reason they ask that viable and humanitarian paths be sought that allow Chile and the rest of the countries of the region "to accept the reality that our subcontinent is experiencing". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 7/6/2021)