The regions face the problems of closing borders

At the worst moment of the pandemic, the Eastern Region of France was able to send some of its most serious patients to Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and Belgium. This made it possible to decongest French hospitals and made a fundamental contribution in the fight against COVID-19. This collaboration has not been, however, the usual trend, as the virtual meeting “¿Shall we connect? Response of the regions to the crisis of COVID-19 ”, among members of ORU Fogar on May 14 and 15. During the meeting, representatives from different regions pointed out that the health crisis has led to serious problems on the borders, especially in Latin America. 

Edwin Miño, executive director of CONGOPE, stressed that Ecuador, beyond the health crisis, had suffered a social, migratory, and humanitarian crisis with respect to the Venezuelan diaspora. As of March 16, Colombia closed its border not giving way to the migration that wanted to go from Ecuador to Venezuela. Thousands of Venezuelans were blocked at the four Ecuador-Colombia crossing points. Ecuador enabled one flight so that a hundred could return to their country. At the time of the virtual meeting, however, there were still 7000 Venezuelans blocked in Ecuador.

The governor of the Colombian border department of Nariño, Jhon Rojas, pointed out the problem of this situation. "In this context," he said, "the coronavirus is coming across the border." In this way, the governor of Nariño asked President Iván Duque to create a humanitarian channel so that Venezuelan migrants could transit through Colombian territory.

Marcelo Carrasco, president of ANCORE, pointed out that similar situations had occurred in Chile. With the coronavirus, many Venezuelans installed in their country had lost their jobs and, finding themselves without resources, unsuccessfully tried to return to their country. 

Rubén Berrios, president of the Regional Council of Tarapacá, Chile, explained how they had suffered the closure of the Bolivian border since March 26. In this case, and as the president explained, the Bolivian military force at the border prevented Bolivian adults, women, and children from crossing. Thus, Chilean local and regional governments had to provide medical assistance, shelter, and food to about 2500 people. They also had to set up shelters and health centres.  After completing a 14-day quarantine, Bolivians travelled to their country on the 16 buses provided by local Chilean governments.

Martin Guillermo, secretary of the Association of European Border Regions, who also took part in the experience, underlined that the pandemic has in many cases highlighted the lack of cross-border cooperation. In his view, these problems should prompt reflection on cooperation between cross-border local and regional governments, which, in his view, should take the lead.



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