Peru is a South American nation known for the immense beauty of its sites like Machu Picchu, a burgeoning food scene and the rich history of the Incan empire. In recent decades, Peru has recovered from a civil war and has been heralded as an economic miracle for reducing poverty by more than half in little over a decade. However, Peru still faces many serious challenges in relation to poverty that create refugees and internally displaced people. To better understand these issues here are 10 facts about Peru refugees.
- Illegal logging in the Peruvian Amazon is a serious problem connected to displacement. An estimated 80 percent of all Peruvian timber is illegally exported to black markets. The former Chief of Peru’s Forest Inspection Agency became a refugee after his increasingly successful policing of the illegal logging industry caused him to receive numerous death threats and eventually flee Peru.
- In the ’80s, Maoist terrorist group, Sendero Luminoso, waged a brutal war against the government. Gross human rights violations committed by both parties destabilized the country and left half a million people internally displaced. Many of Peru’s poorest people are refugees from the civil war who lost everything they owned after leaving the countryside and never recovered.
- Environmental changes, such as drought and shortened growing seasons, have caused a wave of “climate refugees” in Peru. In Huancayo, the shrinking of a large glacier that irrigates the region’s fields has led to large amounts of migration. As altitude increases in the region so does the probability that changing weather patterns will cause displacement.
- Although Peru has its own challenges of adequately settling internally displaced people, it has opened its doors to neighbors both near and far with initiatives to streamline processes to receive Syrian refugees and the creation of nearly 6,000 visas for Venezuelans to escape the current crisis.
- Since a great majority of Peru’s most vulnerable refugees from the countryside move to nearby cities and urban centers, displaced beyond Peru’s borders rarely occurs, and as a result, the problem is often ignored by the media and international organizations.
- Peruvian migrants have led a food revolution spanning from the U.S. to the United Arab Emirates. Dishes like ceviche and aji de gallina are new favorites of food critics. Michelin Star rated chef Virgilio Martinez is widely considered one of the greatest chefs in the world. He recalls that the instability of Lima in the ’90s led to him starting his cooking career outside of Peru.
- In April 2017, flooding in northern Peru caused one of the country’s largest displacements of people. Up to 173,000 people were left homeless and 1.1 million in need of assistance. The International Organization for Migration is advocating for the U.N.’s emergency response program, Flash Appeal, to be allocated $38.3 million in additional funding to help in the building of shelters and refugee camps in Piura.
- Formal property rights and land titles are urgently needed for Peru’s indigenous population to avoid displacement. Indigenous groups are allocated land by the state, but the government allows multinational corporations to drill on those lands without the consent of the community. Environmental degradation has led to the loss of employment, resources and health in these communities.
- Land grabbing is a common practice in Peru. Often a large foreign corporation will illegally buy areas of land and dispossess its inhabitants of access to resources that the community’s livelihood depends on. Sustainable NGO GRAIN compiled almost 500 current cases from the public record of illegal land appropriation.
- Issues relating to displaced people in Peru are handled by the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, which began a process of both individual and group reparations for displaced people in 2013.
These 10 facts about Peru refugees not only demonstrate the important steps to resettle or compensate many of its refugees from its civil war, but also the challenges that lay ahead. The government has not addressed many current factors that continue to displace people, ranging from environmental problems to a lack of property rights.
Peru must empower its citizens, in particular its displaced people, by giving them a right to participate more fully in the democratic process or its refugee problem will not be resolved.
– Jared Gilbert