Ecuador Suspends Visa Waiver With China Amid ‘Unusual’ Surge in Chinese Nationals

Sophia Lam
By Sophia Lam
June 19, 2024Americas
Ecuador on Tuesday said it will suspend a visa waiver for Chinese citizens, starting July 1.

Ecuador says that it has temporarily suspended a visa waiver agreement with China, citing a “worrying increase in migratory flows from China.”

Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility stated in a June 19 social media post that there was an “unusual increase” of Chinese nationals entering the country in recent months.

The agency noted that about 50 percent of Chinese citizens overstayed the permitted 90-day period or have left the country “through irregular routes.”

The country was one of only two mainland countries in the Americas that offered visa-free entry to Chinese nationals. The other is Suriname.

Chinese nationals entered Ecuador 48,381 times in 2023 but only exited 24,240 times, according to the Washington-based think tank the Niskanen Center, which cited official entry/exit data from the Ecuadorian government. The resulting entry/exit difference of 24,141 was the highest among all nationalities, according to the think tank.

In a statement provided to media outlets, the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry said that the suspension would start on July 1. He didn’t provide an end date to the suspension.

From Ecuador, many migrants making their way to the U.S. border travel through Colombia to reach the jungle route to Panama, known as the Darien Gap.

Newly-elected Panama president José Mulino has vowed to close down the Darien Gap route to illegal migrants. He takes office on July 1 for a five-year term.

“When repatriation begins here, those who try to arrive will think twice because they will not have an easy destination because they will be transferred to their countries of origin,” Mr. Mulino said in a local radio interview after his election in May.

“At no point do I say that this will be an easy action, but it will be a firm decision, with the purpose of making it known that we are not sponsoring that [migration] here and that we are going to put a stop to it.”

Last year, data show 500,000 migrants made the trek through the dangerous jungle terrain to arrive in migrant camps in Panama run by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations.

At the U.S. border, authorities have apprehended 48,500 illegal or inadmissible Chinese nationals for the seven months beginning Oct. 1, 2023, according to Customs and Border Protection data. That includes more than 7,400 entering through the northern U.S. border.

Arrests of illegal immigrant Chinese nationals has leaped from 554 in fiscal year 2020 to 52,700 in fiscal year 2023.

Lin Yan contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times