Out of prison, but stuck in Peru

Foreigners released from prison in Peru aren’t always free to leave the country; it takes them more than six months to get their exit-papers and leaves them prone to more problems. Jurriaan van Eerten reports from Lima.

When he came out of Ancón prison in March, Italian-born Davide Cannavo, 33, was lucky enough to have Peruvian friends of his family who picked him up and provided a place to stay. Many foreigners stand lost in front of the prison gates, in a deserted area on the outskirts of the capital. However, Cannavo’s acquaintances couldn’t bring him to the airport; after spending almost seven years in prison for attempting to smuggle cocaine out of the country, he wasn’t free to leave the country yet.

Foreign ex-convicts have to go through a bureaucratic process in Peru which takes, on average, around 8 months to complete. They need to get their reparation and rehabilitation documents, which take time to complete and, furthermore, need to be paid for. These documents then have to be approved by the police and migration ministry for foreign ex-convicts to leave the country. It’s a difficult process for foreigners.

They often don’t speak Spanish nor understand the bureaucratic system. Even after obtaining all the relevant documents, foreign nationals still need money to pay for their plane ticket. Many ex-convicts don’t want to ask their family or friends who have already provided financial help while they were in prison, or who turned their backs on them for committing a crime in the first place.

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