Chilean authorities expressed their concern over the increase in arrivals of refugees and migrants during August. The new arrivals cross from Pisiga, Bolivia, to the border city of Colchane through unofficial border points. Authorities are concerned that this number of refugees and migrants (mostly from Venezuela) could overwhelm the limited public services available in Colchane, and create a situation similar to the one that took place in February. According to local authorities, in addition to walking through unofficial border points, refugees and migrants hitch rides on trucks or hire smugglers to enter the country.
Authorities of the Antofagasta Region announced the opening of a health screening and customs office in the city of Tocopilla, on the coast, due to the increase of irregular entries in the region. The office is equipped to conduct COVID-19 tests. Refugees and migrants who test positive must stay in the city under quarantine, while those who test negative may continue their journeys. The city first opened such an office in 2020, but then transferred it north to the border with Tarapacá.
The Government of Chile welcomed the renewal of the dialogue process between the government and the opposition in Venezuela that formally began on 13 August in Mexico, and issued a press release wishing the parties success in their efforts to reach a democratic transition and reiterating its commitment to a peaceful and democratic solution in the country.
Reports show that by the end of August, for the first time during the pandemic, the COVID-19 positivity rate in Chile was less than 1%. According to the Ministry of Health, 672 new cases of COVID-19 were registered, a historic low since February.
Statistics published by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) and the Department of Immigration of Chile (DEM) show that the population of foreigners in 2021 has grown in all regions of the country. As of December 2020, there were 1.4 million foreigners in the country, 62% of them living in the metropolitan region of Santiago, followed by 7% in Antofagasta, and 4.7% in Tarapacá. Venezuelans comprised on average a third of all foreigners in Chile.
A recently published study on the “Rights of migrant children with irregular status” by the NGOs Inmigrantes de Chile and Colectivo sin Fronteras presented figures on access to health and education for refugee and migrant children in Chile. The study showed that 51.7% of children and adolescents considered in the study lacked access to outpatient care. The study authors argue that this situation is due to a government health policy that effectively excludes refugees and migrants. Regarding education, 28% of children and adolescents were not enrolled in schools. The responsible adults interviewed mentioned not being able to find vacancies in schools (26.3%) and not having searched for schools (13.2%) as the main reasons for children not being enrolled.
A study published by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) encouraged governments hosting growing outflows of Venezuelans to move from short-term humanitarian responses to long-term integration policies. The study argues that most of the countries now hosting refugees and migrants from Venezuela, such us Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, used to be nations of emigration and have outdated or limited policies to deal with the current arrivals. The study recommends reducing irregularity, facilitating credential recognition, addressing income gaps, improving access to education and healthcare, and sustaining transparency and research.