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Peru Plans First Large Deportation of Venezuelan Migrants

FILE - Venezuelan migrants walk to Lima along the shoulder of the Pan-American Highway near Tumbes, Peru, Aug. 26, 2018.

Peru plans to deport about 50 Venezuelan migrants for concealing that they had criminal records, the interior ministry said on Monday, in the first large expulsion since hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fled to the Andean nation last year to escape their country's crippling economic crisis.

The migrants were detained in different districts of the capital Lima early on Monday and will be flown to Venezuela later in the day, the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry accused the migrants of providing false sworn declarations in their residency applications stating they had no criminal record, a violation of Peru's migration law that is punishable with deportation.

Peru has granted special residency permits to 330,000 Venezuelans, allowing them to work and receive health and education services, and another 160,000 applications are being processed, according to Peru's immigration department.

The planned deportation follows reports in local media in recent months about Venezuelan nationals involved in criminal rackets including an alleged kidnapping-for-ransom gang that police announced they disbanded last week.

Some 3 million Venezuelans have left their homeland since 2015, seeking to escape the economic crisis under Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that has deprived many of basic foods and medicine, according to a U.N. estimate. Another 2 million are expected to emigrate this year.

Most Venezuelan migrants have ended up in other South American countries, straining public services in developing nations unaccustomed to absorbing large migratory waves and fueling a backlash in some places.

Peru is home to the second-biggest population of Venezuelan migrants after Colombia. More than 700,000 Venezuelans now reside in Peru, a country of some 32 million people.