Thursday, January 20

Thousands of Haitian migrants remain stranded on the border between Colombia and Panama | International


The inhabitants of Necoclí, a small Colombian municipality on the Caribbean Sea, are used to seeing in their port the migrants who embark to cross the Gulf of Urabá and from the other shore venture to cross the jungle border with Panama, known as the Darien plug. But the massive arrival in recent days has caused nearly 10,000 migrants – mostly Haitians, but also Asians and Africans – to remain stranded on its beaches and streets, waiting for their turn to go out in boats to Capurganá, a 66-kilometer route, and from there to Central America and the United States.

The crowds in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic concern the authorities of the municipality, with 21,000 inhabitants in its urban area and poor basic services, who fear a humanitarian crisis and have raised a cry for help to ask for the support of the Foreign Ministry of Colombia. “Hotels, hostels, family houses are not enough to serve this population,” explained to the press this Tuesday César Zúñiga, the Director of Risk Management at Necoclí. The maritime transport company of the place evacuates about 750 migrants daily, but each night between 1,000 and 1,200 people arrive, which is causing the crowding, aggravated on weekends, when the company is dedicated only to transporting tourists, the official has detailed.

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These numbers pale in comparison to the phenomenon of migration from Venezuela, since Colombia is by far the main destination of that diaspora with more than 1.7 million citizens of the neighboring country in its territory – for which it implements a Temporary Statute of Protection. But the situation in Necoclí is a microcosm of the tensions that migratory pressure can produce in a small population. Although the massive presence of migrants has activated the economy, locals cannot make use of banking services that have been collapsed by visitors, and tourists cannot get close to the beaches, crowded at all times, the municipal administration laments. They fear that the situation will get worse and demand the help of the national authorities. Although there are Asian, African and Cuban migrants, the vast majority are Haitians, up to nine out of 10, sources from the Mayor’s Office told EL PAÍS.

Colombian immigration authorities have registered more than 25,000 irregular migrants in 2021, the vast majority Haitian citizens in transit. “Colombia is not the cause or the origin of irregular migration. However, as a country, we are concerned about this situation, taking into account that migrant smuggling networks treat people like merchandise, exposing them to dangerous situations, in which they can even lose their lives, “the week warned. last Juan Francisco Espinosa, Director of Migration of Colombia, pointing out that it is a historical flow that has had peaks of up to more than 35,000 people in one year. Although he denied then that the figures are as high as they say from Necoclí, he pointed out that he has met with Panamanian authorities, as well as with the vice president and foreign minister, Marta Lucía Ramírez, with the purpose of seeking new strategies that allow to mitigate this phenomenon.

The Ombudsman’s Office also echoed the call of the Mayor’s Office of Necoclí and has asked both national entities and the department of Antioquia to put into operation contingency plans that attend and guarantee the rights of the migrant and refugee population with a vocation of transit. in the face of a possible collapse due to the concentration of people who travel through the dangerous route of the Darien plug. So far this year, some 33,000 people from Haiti, Cuba, Chile, Senegal or Ghana have passed through this corridor, according to the Ombudsman’s Office.

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