At least four Venezuelans died, and six others were injured during a fire in a shelter for undocumented migrants in Chile’s Talca province on Tuesday.
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"Although firefighters worked very hard, the fire spread quickly because the shelter's structure was antique," Talca Province Fire Brigade Commander Francisco Iturra stated, recalling that the six migrant injured are being treated at the regional hospital.
Chile’s Military Police Forensic Laboratory (LABOCAR) will carry the necessary procedures to clarify whether the fire was accidental or was intentionally provoked. "The outcome of the investigation will be of high relevance. If we find that the fire was intentional, we will not rest until we find the culprits," Maule Region Attorney Hector De La Fuente stated.
In April 2018, President Sebastian Piñera announced the imposition of a “Democratic Responsibility” Visa for Venezuelan citizens to facilitate their migration to his country. In 2020, however, he suspended this immigration offer, which left thousands of Venezuelan families without a regularized immigration status.
The Jesuit Migrant Service estimates that 23,673 undocumented migrants entered Chile by land during the first seven months of the year and that 450,000 Venezuelan migrants currently remain in Chilean territory without any hope their migratory status will be regularized. On Sept. 25, Chilean citizens insulted, chased, and burned the belongings of 150 undocumented Venezuelan families, which were expelled from an improvised camp in Iquique City.
This attack was harshly rejected by local NGOs and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which urged the Piñera administration to take urgent policies against xenophobic actions.
"Citizens’ treatment of migrants reflects the deep values of a country,” De La Fuente stressed and lamented that the Immigration Services Office will deport the Talca shelter migrants if it finds that their migratory status has not yet been regularized.