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PERU
Venezuelan migrants in pursuit of better opportunities
Graciela Ramirez Ramirez
5/24/2017
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Political and social crisis in their native land force thousands of Venezuelan citizens to abandon their country.

In the last three years, Peru has been the destination of choice for thousands of Venezuelans who arrive in search for better opportunities. Their characteristic festive and entrepreneurial spirit has made it possible for them to “echar p’alante” (push ahead) in the country that opened its doors to them when the crisis worsened in their native Venezuela, keeping on edge an entire society and motivating the largest Venezuelan migration in the history of the country.

Venezuelans have taken the most difficult decision of their lives: to transcend the borders of their homeland and say goodbye to their loved ones. Homesickness overwhelms them with emotions at moments, but hope is stronger and they are resolute to get over the hardships to give hope to their relatives that were left behind.

Mirtha Jaramillo, young mother and businesswoman, arrived in Peru two years ago accompanied by her seven year-old son, from the city of Zaraza in the central state of Guárico in Venezuela. Having left behind her industrial uniform manufacturing business in the state of Carabobo, in the north of Venezuela, they now reside in the district of Comas, in the north of Lima, to dedicate her time to the sale of hamburgers.

“It was a very difficult decision when you see that you have no other choice, that your son doesn’t have a future, and that you live in constant fear. Someone has to fly and try to get ahead to lend a helping hand to the family back home. One always gets homesick, you can’t help that, but we have been well received by the Peruvian people who make you feel like family. One leaves behind family and friends of so many years, and it hurts a lot. Although thanks to God I’m doing well here, and my family knows this, my heart is always back there,” said Jaramillo to Latinamerica Press.

The same as Jaramillo, many Venezuelan migrants are now in different cities in the country, trying to get ahead, working hard with the desire to start a new life that will allow them to continue growing personally and professionally, something that they could not achieve in their birth country.

Building bridges
The exact number of Venezuelans now in Peru has not been pinpointed yet. By January of this year the National Superintendency of Migration (SNM) estimated the number of Venezuelans living in the country to be 6,000.

Eduardo Liendo, a young law student, left four months ago his natal Isla Margarita, in the Venezuelan Caribbean, to live in Comas. He now works as a waiter in the capital city and, as many of his compatriots, he hopes to save enough money to continue his studies and support his family, without excluding the possibility of returning to his country when the conditions improve.

“I am very close to becoming a lawyer; but I couldn’t finish my studies. The situation in Venezuela forced me to flee; one doesn’t leave by choice, we were compelled to do it. I chose Peru because I saw an opportunity for growth for me and my family, and it offers many opportunities, it’s an open and a growing country. I am looking to stay here; and in the future, with a change in government and the expansion of political freedoms in my country, I think that many of us will be eager to return, and fight and work for the growth of Venezuela,” Liendo tells Latinamerica Press.

With the massive influx of Venezuelan citizens into the country, the Peruvian government proposed a series of measures included in the new Immigration Law, enacted on Mar. 1, providing migratory guarantees to settle formally, practice their professions, and develop their life projects.

One of the benefits brought on by the new law is the Temporary Permanency Permit (PTP) for those Venezuelan citizens who have entered the country in a regular manner and to those foreigners with Peruvian underage children or adult children with permanent disabilities. The PTP allows Venezuelan citizens who entered the country up until Feb. 2, 2017, to be allowed to incorporate into the migratory formality to be permitted to study, sign contracts, perform paid activities subject to taxation, open bank accounts and access to health services.

Fits to mention that, unlike other countries in the region, the disadvantage of Venezuelans in Peru to obtain legal immigration status is that Venezuela is not a member of integration agreements as are the Andean Community and Mercosur. For this reason, the implementation of this immigration policy is seen in a good light by different international institutions, like the Inter American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR), who spoke in favor of this important initiative by the Peruvian government that protects Venezuelan migrants in vulnerable situations.

As of May, the SNM had received around 5,000 applications for temporary permits, out of which 3,500 have been granted so far. Liendo is one of those benefitted: “Now I have my PTP, it is the best thing and it is very simple. The permit is for one year and it is a type of residence card for foreigners. Obviously, this is a new permit and we cannot enjoy as many benefits as those who have the residence card, but for us the main issue is to be legal. I believe that little by little this will get better, and will normalize and regularize so we can have more opportunities.”

Great challenges
As a result of the concerns, doubts and uncertainties regarding the immigration regulation, a group of Venezuelan citizens residing in Peru for several years now, have organized in order to provide support and guidance to their compatriots.

In a large room in a church in the district of Miraflores, members of the nongovernmental organization Venezuelan Union in Peru provide counseling to those who, just as them, left their country in search of new opportunities. So, each Friday they receive hundreds of Venezuelan migrants, each one with a different situation and story to tell. And they try to answer their questions providing free counseling, but they also receive the encouragement to not lose sight of their dreams, faced with the adversities that may present before them.

The director of the organization, Martha Fernández, explains to Latinamerica Press that “the idea is to become a community that adapts, and not one that comes to give problems; we want to show Peru that respect. Our work is focused on the migration issues, because we believe it is the basis for everything. If you arrive in a country and you want to work, then you need that legality for starters.”

Fernández also adds that “most of them have this problem when they arrive: they can’t easily obtain legal status; we are outside the migratory agreements, and this makes things much more difficult for us. But once this is solved then things go much easier when looking for a good job. Most of them come with considerable education; they are professionals and this makes it easier for them.”

Another obstacle for Venezuelans is to leave their country with their documents in order, because the administrative processes have been affected by the crisis, added to which is the recall of the Peruvian ambassador in Venezuela, Mario López Chávarri, on Mar. 31, a measure taken by the Peruvian government to reject the decision from the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela to take on parliamentary powers that correspond to the National Assembly, a decision it qualified as a breakdown in the constitutional and democratic order in Venezuela.

“It is very difficult for those professionals who are here, and those who are on their way here, to revalidate their degrees because they don’t bring all the needed paperwork from Venezuela. They can’t bring their documents with additional authentication because there are many problems there to issue the original documents, so this is what is most burdensome,” she explains.

Fernández is optimistic and considers that by working with entities such as the Immigration office, the Ministry and Congress, as his organization has been doing, improvements will continue to be obtained in favor of migrants.

“We are looking for the ways, the agreements that have already been proposed in the different institutions, but we also have to understand that one is a foreigner in this country and it is a requirement [to have all the documents legally in order] and we are now looking for options to see the way to expedite this documentary process, but we are also taking the needed time because we feel that we need to wait for the PTP process to end to then gage how positive it was. We are going to wait a few months to evaluate the situation,” Fernández says.

It is a big challenge but hope is stronger and hope is never lost. The migratory regulation for Venezuelans is and will be the biggest challenge not only for them but also for the Peruvian government, and it is in its hands to repay the openness with which Venezuela welcomed Peruvians migrants in de 70s. —Latinamerica Press.


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With counseling from Venezuelan Union in Peru, hundreds of Venezuelan migrants look to find a solution to their migration status. / Graciela Ramirez
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