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UNHCR Boosts Aid to Venezuelan Asylum Seekers

Venezuelan migrants wait to cross border at the Binational Border Service Center of Peru, on the border with Ecuador, in Tumbes, Peru, Oct. 31, 2018.

In response to an upsurge of Venezuelan asylum seekers, the U.N. refugee agency has scaled up protection and assistance at crucial border points in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

The impetus behind this move was the deadline of October 31 set by Peru for Venezuelans to apply for a Temporary Stay Permit. That triggered a mad rush by people fleeing poverty and violence in Venezuela to get to Peru before the deadline expired.

The U.N. refugee agency reports more than 100,000 Venezuelans so far have obtained the Temporary Stay Permit. Spokesman, Babar Baloch said the UNHCR was on hand to help Venezuelans fill out the required border formalities, including immigration procedures and mandatory vaccinations.

He said people anxiously waited in line for two to three days early last week to make sure they completed all the necessary forms and other border procedures ahead of the deadline.

"Thousands of people were sleeping in the open and many required medical assistance and food. The Peruvian authorities, UNHCR and its partners worked to quickly scale-up our response. In addition, strong coordination is in place between UNHCR and offices in Peru and Ecuador to respond to the urgent needs of the Venezuelans."

Baloch said UNHCR also has reinforced its presence inside Peru in Tumbes, which is the main border crossing from Ecuador. He said UNHCR will increase protection coverage and assist people with specific needs, such as unaccompanied and separated children.

Baloch said UNHCR teams are present at Ecuador's northern and southern borders to help orient arriving Venezuelan families and refer people with special protection needs to state services for assistance.

In Colombia, he said UNHCR and partners are aiding an increasing number of Venezuelans departing for Ecuador. He said staff members at the border are providing hot meals, blankets and kits for children to speed them on their way.

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