TUMBES: Venezuelans continued to surge out of their country today, joining the 7.5 per cent of the population that has already fled a deepening economic crisis, as regional governments struggled to cope with one of the biggest exoduses in Latin American history.
The wave of Venezuelan migration has accelerated in recent days amid new restrictions imposed by some of Venezuela's overwhelmed neighbours, sparking a warning from the United Nations.
Migrants were dashing to get into Peru before it tightens border controls at midnight.
Venezuelans arriving after that deadline will be required to produce a passport, where an ID card had previously sufficed.
"It remains critical that any new measures continue to allow those in need of international protection to access safety and seek asylum," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said yesterday in a statement issued jointly with the International Organization of Migration in Geneva.
Ecuador -- where close to half a million people have fled this year alone -- imposed a passport requirement only last week.
The UN said up to 4,000 people were arriving daily in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Brazil, where migrants have been violently turned back by locals concerned by increasing crime.
The new passport rules threatened to leave tens of thousands stranded in Ecuador and Colombia, exacerbating problems there.
Ecuador will host a 13-nation regional summit next month to discuss the worsening exodus.
That nation's foreign ministry said Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Paraguay, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela have been invited to the September 17-18 meeting in Quito.
In Tumbes, on the Peruvian side of the border with Ecuador, lines of people waited to have their papers checked, sweating in the tropical climate in an area known for its banana plantations.
Only around half of the Venezuelans heading south to escape poverty and economic crisis are carrying passports, according to Colombia's migration director, Christian Kruger.
The other half have ID cards.
Peru has also been struggling to cope.
Earlier this month, a record 5,100 people entered the country in a single day.
Peru's migration superintendent, Eduardo Sevilla, said yesterday that "there are already 400,000" Venezuelans in the country and if they continue arriving at the same rate, there will be "half a million by the beginning of November."
Many queueing at the border left Venezuela on foot weeks ago.
They've already travelled 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles), but those who get through face another 1,200-kilometer journey to the Peruvian capital Lima.
Local churches have been handing out food to the weary and hungry migrants as they wait.
Meanwhile, Peru has called for calm, saying the number of Venezuelans affected by the new policy will be relatively minor.
"No one's talking about the closing of borders," said Interior Minister Mauro Medina.
He said Peru is improving its "migration control for reasons of order and security," adding that "80 per cent of Venezuelans who come into the country do so with a passport."
Kruger criticised the measures announced by Colombia's two southern neighbours, admitting he was "worried about the consequences."
"Asking for a passport isn't going to stop migration, because they're leaving their country not out of choice but out of necessity," he said.
The UN says more than 2.3 million of Venezuela's 30.6 million population have fled the country since the current crisis began in 2014, a staggering 7.5 per cent.
Colombia's Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said earlier this week that the country would petition the UN, during next month's General Assembly in New York, to appoint a special envoy "to coordinate a multilateral action to combat this humanitarian crisis."
Venezuela is in a fourth straight year of recession, with double-digit declines in its Gross Domestic Product.
The inflation rate is expected to reach a mind-boggling one million per cent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Under President Nicolas Maduro's leadership, Venezuelans are suffering from severe shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities, while public services have been failing.
Industry is operating at only 30 per cent, hit hard by the crash in oil prices since 2014 in a country that earns 96 per cent of its revenue from crude.
In efforts to boost the economy, Maduro and his government have implemented measures including a redenomination of the bolivar, a loosening of foreign capital rules and a massive increase in the minimum wage.
But critics and analysts say those moves will likely be counterproductive.