IPIALES, Colombia (Reuters) – Dozens of angry Venezuelan migrants fleeing Venezuela's economic hardship for Sunday's new life defied the rules of a valid passport for crossing the Colombia-Ecuadorian border.
Hundreds of desperate people, traveling mostly from Venezuela by bus but also on foot, were unable to pass the checkpoint near the southwestern city of Ipiales following a ruling issued on Saturday by Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno.
But as tensions mounted in the colder Colombian mining town, migrants decided to risk imprisonment and simply walked across the unorganized and loosely-guarded border, frozen for days on the Rumichaca crossing.
"We have no money, we need to go ahead now and get our lives back," Mayerly Isaguirre said breathless as she dragged her belongings up the steep hillside on the Ecuadorian border.
The 37-year-old elementary school teacher traveled with her boyfriend and planned to drive legally with her Venezuelan national ID card to find work in Peru where other family members arrived successfully a few weeks ago. But they were stopped by the new regulation.
After more than 24 hours trembling with cold at the border, she seized the opportunity.
"They did not tell us anything ̵
The Peruvian government announced on Friday the same immigration rules as the Ecuadors, with passport provisions for the Venezuelans from 25 August. Ecuador said on Sunday that children and teenagers could travel with their parents without a passport.
"They are in limbo," said Gustavo Salvador, a Red Cross Ecuador worker. "Many people crossing illegally will be hit by the penalties at Peru's border, and these people have no money."
Ecuador's foreign and home affairs ministers did not comment. A spokesman for the Colombian Migration Office could not be reached immediately for a comment.
On Sunday morning there were clashes between migrants – people who ventured into groups to Ecuador, while others argued that they should stay and "go the right way".
More than one million Venezuelan migrants have arrived Colombia has also received official estimates from Ecuador, Peru and Brazil in the last 15 months.
Especially in the last two years, many Venezuelans have had difficulties getting passports in the political and economic chaos of the OPEC countries.
Alone this year, 423,000 Venezuelans crossed the Rumichaca border into Ecuador.
In Ipiales, Venezuelan migrants who said they had been hitchhiking for days were huddled under blankets in tents. Exhausted and hungry, they scraped together their last few pesos to buy food.
Many, like Jorge Luis Torrealba, who traveled with 12 friends and family members, including two small children, found no place in the tents and slept on the frozen concrete pavement.
"We're from the Caribbean, we can not handle this cold," he said shakily, though he wore four T-shirts, two sweaters, two pairs of socks and two jeans.
He said he was thinking of wandering across the border into Peru, but he is afraid of what would happen to his children if he were imprisoned. "We just want to continue."
Editing by Helen Murphy and Dan Grebler