SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chilean protesters marched against immigration and crime in the Andean country’s far north on Sunday, with some violent factions destroying migrant camp property on the streets amid rising tensions in the region over border controls.

Photos showed protesters, many carrying Chilean flags, smashing tent structures and bedding in the northern city of Iquique and dumping them in a large pile, an echo of angry protests in September last year when camps were burned down.

Despite pandemic restrictions in recent years, many migrants from Venezuela and elsewhere have continued to try to reach Chile, one of the richest countries in the region, which has been rocked in recent years by protests against entrenched inequalities.

“This cannot go on,” read a protest banner during Sunday’s march in the coastal city by several thousand people, who complained about what they called an increase in illegal immigration and an increase in criminality.

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Local media reported that a group of protesters attacked a migrant. Videos on social media showed the man lying on the ground surrounded by police as protesters, waving Chilean flags and holding pots, shouted at him.

The call to protest came after a group of Venezuelan migrants recently attacked police officers at a checkpoint, for which they were arrested. Protesters on social media have also called for a strike in the city over the situation.

Migration and crime were a big concern for voters in last year’s presidential elections, which were won by Gabriel Boric, 35, a leftist lawmaker and former student protest leader who takes office in March .

(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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