Ecuador to organize regional Venezuela migrant crisis meeting

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Venezuelan migrants are bearing precarious conditions often on foot to flee their country and head for safer pastures to the south

Ecuador will organize a meeting of 13 Latin American countries to discuss the Venezuelan migrant crisis, Quito's top diplomat said on Tuesday.

More than two million people have fled economic collapse in Venezuela during a four-year recession, according to the United Nations, piling pressure on neighboring countries as well as others further afield.

Ecuador and Peru have announced tighter entry measures to control the influx of Venezuelans, leaving many stranded on those countries' northern borders with Colombia.

The latter's migration director, Christian Kruger, on Tuesday called on Colombia's southern neighbors to agree on a common strategy to address the problem.

Last week, both Ecuador and Peru announced they would require Venezuelans to show passports to enter their countries, but Kruger said he was "worried about the consequences" as around half of Venezuelans heading south through Colombia are carrying only ID cards.

Kruger told W Radio that while the migrant crisis "isn't Peru, Ecuador and Colombia's responsibility" he wants the three to "work together in a coordinated manner, employing similar policies to address this phenomenon."

Regional giants Brazil, Argentina and Mexico were among the invitees to the Ecuador meeting, as well as Venezuela itself.

Others include impacted countries such as Colombia, Peru and Chile.

Ecuador's deputy migration minister, Santiago Chavez said it was important to establish policies to "confront in the best manner and most responsible way, the unusual flux of Venezuelan citizens."

Colombia has been flooded by more than a million Venezuelans over the last 16 months and Kruger was critical of the Peruvian and Ecuadoran moves last week.

"Asking for a passport isn't going to stop migration because they're leaving their country not out of choice but out of necessity," he said.

But Chavez insisted that "the worst thing that can happen to the country is migratory chaos in which no one knows what happens to the foreign citizens that enter."

The UN's Refugee Agency says almost 550,000 Venezuelans have entered Ecuador since the start of the year but claims that only 20 percent of those remain, with the rest continuing on to Peru and Chile.

Kruger, though, said the "worst thing that can happen to a country is having an undocumented foreign population.

"We want this migration to take place in an orderly and secure fashion and the way to do this is to identify this population."

More than 800,000 Venezuelans have been given temporary residency in Colombia since the migrant crisis began, which Kruger blames on Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro practising a deliberate "policy of expulsion" towards his own people in order to reduce the country's population and "improve the distribution of resources."