SANTIAGO, September 27 (Reuters) – Venezuelan migrants in Iquique, northern Chile, have been rocked by a series of angry protests by residents against settler camps that have sprung up in town squares and even on beaches , a reflection of the latent tensions over migration in the region.
Over the weekend, thousands of local Chileans marched with anti-immigration slogans and set fire to the belongings of Venezuelan migrants, throwing clothes and mattresses into bonfires in the streets, after a camp was cleaned up by police on Friday.
“They are shouting at us, ‘Go back to your country. What are you doing here ?’ They shout a lot of ugly things at us, ”said Jaqueline Rojas, a Venezuelan from the city.
“It makes us sad, because the truth is, we are not all the same. There are people who come to do bad things and others who come looking for work. I am going south to look for work, with my daughter and my brother. “
Despite the restrictions linked to the pandemic, many migrants from Venezuela and elsewhere continue to try to reach Chile, one of the wealthiest countries in the region, which has been rocked in recent years by protests against entrenched inequalities.
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In the coastal town of Iquique, more than 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) north of Santiago, hundreds of migrants had settled in tents in a town square last week, while deciding where to go. final, often the capital of the country.
“It’s better than being in Venezuela. In Venezuela, you have your house and everything you want, but you cannot afford to feed your children, to dress them or to give them a good education ”, Wendy González, manager of a makeshift camp. , said last week.
During an operation on Friday, local police carried out evictions in the square. The Chilean government has carried out controversial deportations of illegal immigrants in an attempt to discourage the arrival of new waves of families.
Juana Rodriguez, a Chilean resident of Iquique, said many residents were angry at the jobs and alleged migrants in the country were simply begging for handouts.
The marches, mainly on Saturdays, gathered around 5,000 Chileans with signs reading “More migrants”. Protesters called on authorities to take action to prevent migrants from entering through Chile’s northern border.
“With the march, yes, we were scared, very scared because we didn’t know what could happen,” said Nacary Mora, a Venezuelan migrant.
Report by Esteban Medel; Written by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Richard Chang
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