Jose and his family are among the 3.5 million people who have left Venezuela since it descended into a political and economic crisis that has left essentials like food and medicine either difficult to find or too expensive to buy. More than 600,000 Venezuelans have made the 950-mile journey to the border of Peru and continued another 800 miles to find refuge in the capital city of Lima.
Venezuelan refugees are allowed to work and send their children to school in Peru, but they must fill out the right forms, present the right documentation and stand in the right lines to receive authorization. The process starts at the border, where the new arrivals receive immigration approval to enter the country. It can take up to three days to complete the process and secure transportation to the nearest town, Tumbes, about a 30-minute car ride. Encuentros staff provide assistance to the newly arrived, particularly the most vulnerable, including pregnant women and families with young children.
Jose and his family were in line at the Immigration office when they were approached by an Encuentros case worker. “They asked if all the children were ours, and whether they had eaten,” says Jose. “We told them ‘no, because we came walking.’
“They took us out of line and took us to a hotel. They paid for a week and they gave us food so we could organize ourselves to do the paperwork to be here legally,” he says. “The support has been incredible.”