*UPDATE* According to La Nación, after escaping immigration authorities, fugitive Colombian citizen Juan David Rosero Perera headed over to the Colombian consulate in downtown Buenos Aires, and in a matter of hours he was on an Avianca flight on his way back to his home country. No more information is available for now.
Early yesterday morning, twelve Colombians were denied entry to the country by immigration officials at Ezeiza and promptly assigned the next flight back to Bogotá, despite all their documents allegedly being in order. However, one of their number, the so-called Juan David Rosero Perero, has escaped the authorities and may be running amok through Lomas de Zamora as we speak.
The group of detained passengers from Avianca flight 965 comprised of both men and women who had been travelling separately and all had their documents in order but were nevertheless “held suspect” by the immigration officials who, after intensive questioning, doubted that the travelers’ motives were purely recreational.
The red flags were raised when one passenger revealed under interrogation that he planned to try his luck with a premier league football team and another that she was going to rejoin her boyfriend. But the real issue seemed to be that neither one had managed to scrape together even fifty dollars for their stay.
Also, it appears that the woman’s boyfriend had overstayed his visit to Argentina and it didn’t help her cause.
At 3:55 PM steps began to send the twelve passengers packing, some time after which it was noted that “Juan” had gone missing. By 6 PM, a mere fifteen minutes before the scheduled Avianca flight 966 took off back to Colombia, the airport police were alerted. CCTV footage later revealed that the fugitive had bought some new clothes in the duty-free shop, and under this cunning disguise evaded the authorities.
Fellow detainees Carlos Gallegos and Ana María Londoño have complained of “mistreatment” at the hands of immigration. Their passports were withheld, they were prevented from walking freely through the zona estéril to which they had been confined (even just to go to the toilet), deprived of food from 4 AM and generally felt discriminated against. “We didn’t know what was happening,” explains Londoño.
These measures are part of a recent administrative change in the Criminal Procedural Code designed to weed out “false tourists”, which was published on the 7th of this month but had yet to be put into action until today. It allows customs officials to deny entry to migrants who are suspected of living and working in Argentina on a 90-day tourist visa by simply refreshing it on a quick jaunt to Uruguay or just letting it expire.
Officials can demand information on permanent residency, current job situation, travel plans and local acquaintances, and can request would-be visitors to provide air tickets, credit cards, hotel bookings, and anything else they feel relevant to “prove” their tourist-status.
However, all this is part of a greater plan of anti-immigration government rhetoric with a not indiscernible xenophobic “under”tone. The new criminal code also claims the right to immediately deport foreigners caught red-handed committing a crime.
Meanwhile, the government has been scaremongering, with Security Secretary Sergio Berni proclaiming an “infection of foreign criminals” and Ministry of Justice’s Juan Martín Mena speaking of a “criminal phenomena related to foreign criminal gangs”. The basis of these allegations seems to stem from a recent shootout allegedly involving Colombian robbers and a general case of the jitters over international drug-trafficking.
However, foreign criminals account for only a relatively small proportion of Argentine crime, and National Immigration Directorate (DNM) Martín Arias Duval has since distanced himself from the comments.
So what next? If you’re white, from Mercosur or have more than $50 in your pocket, you’re probably safe (emphasis on “probably”). Come on in! But if not, you better have a really airtight argument for entering Argentina by the time you hit customs.