UN condemns “acts of discrimination and xenophobia” against migrants in northern Chile

February 3, 2022

The United Nations condemned this Thursday the “acts of discrimination and xenophobia” that occurred days ago against undocumented immigrants in the cities of Iquique and Arica, in northern Chile, during protests over the increase in crime that some associate with foreigners.

“We call on national, regional and local authorities to ensure adequate respect for the human rights of all people to live a life free of violence, particularly those communities that host people in human mobility,” they indicated from the office of the UN in Chile through a statement.

“We condemn the attacks on officials of the public order forces and the acts of discrimination and xenophobia that have occurred,” they added in relation to a beating of police officers by foreigners and attacks on foreign street camps in a subsequent demonstration of repudiation.

Both situations occurred in the coastal city of Iquique, some 1,750 km north of Santiago, and once again highlighted the problems in the area after the massive arrival since the end of 2019 of thousands of irregular immigrants through clandestine steps in the arid desert of Atacama by the borders of Chile with Peru and, mainly, Bolivia.

Most of the immigrants are Venezuelan citizens in conditions of extreme poverty. Those who cross with more economic and family resources in Chile reach cities in the south or the capital, but the most abandoned set up camps in squares and beaches of this city.

“We call on all people not to use isolated events to promote discrimination and violence against refugees and migrants,” the UN urged.

Last Monday Iquique woke up with a general strike of services and dozens of trucks blocking access to the city and the main streets, while some 4,000 people went out to protest, launching xenophobic cries for considering that the massive presence of undocumented immigrants increased crime and unsafety.

That protest ended with a wounded Venezuelan and a camp of foreigners forcibly evicted, in images that have been repeated since September of last year, when in another demonstration against migration the belongings of Venezuelan families were burned.

“We point out that there are serious situations of vulnerability and lack of attention regarding the most basic humanitarian needs of the population in human mobility,” the international organization warned.

The Chilean Foreign Ministry reported this Thursday that they agreed with Bolivia to hold a work table “in the next few hours” to evaluate the situation and find solutions.

Among these initiatives, they highlighted the spending of 3.5 million dollars allocated by UNHCR (the UN refugee agency), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) “for the establishment of temporary residences for migrants.”

At the same time, Chile’s interior minister, Rodrigo Delgado, remains on an official visit to the area on behalf of the government -President Sebastián Piñera is on vacation- and confirmed an increase in the number of police officers in those cities, which already were reinforced throughout 2021.

The Chilean Police indicated that currently at least 200 undocumented foreigners cross the border between Bolivia and Chile daily through clandestine steps to reach the border town of Colchane, about 237 km from Iquique.