Immigrants stranded in northern Colombia struggle to survive | Human Rights News


Immigrants and asylum seekers are struggling to survive in a port city in northern Colombia, and they hope to continue their journey to the United States and Canada from there.

For many years, the coastal town of Necocli in the province of Antioquia, Colombia An important transit point For immigrants seeking transit Panama’s dangerous Darien Gorge region Go north for protection and better opportunities.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and border closures, this inflow dried up in 2020, but soon after Colombia opened its borders in May, Necocli was overwhelmed. Since then, about 10,000 immigrants have poured into the town, and many have been forced to wait for several weeks to wait for the scarcity of ships to Panama.

“I only have $150 left… it is almost impossible to continue,” Haitian immigrant Remy Wilford told AFP this week.

Wilford came to Necocli from Chile, where he worked as a baker for the past four years and saved $1,200. It took him two weeks to arrive, and another two weeks to board a ship that took him to the Panamanian border.

There are 12 daily boat trips from Necocli to the Panamanian border town of Capurgana, which spans 60 kilometers (37 miles) of Uraba Bay, where immigrants embark on a dangerous journey through the dense jungle of Darien Gap.

Necocli’s only company providing ferry services simply cannot meet the demand, forcing immigrants to spend their precious savings on food and accommodation while waiting to move on.

Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reported from Necocli on Saturday that although many immigrants have been able to cross the border, “they are still arriving here, and the municipality on the other side of Uraba Bay… only allows 200 people to enter each day. [to cross]”.

She said that many immigrants say they just want to be allowed to continue their journey. “These people are currently trapped. They say they have no resources, they have no money, and they are struggling to survive,” Bo said.

The Necocli region usually has 30,000 immigrants passing through each year. According to data from the Colombian Immigration Service, only 4,000 people will cross the border in 2020, and 25,000 migrants have crossed the border so far this year.

United Nations Children’s Rights Agency Say In March of this year, the number of children passing through Darien Gorge has increased by more than 15 times in the past four years, and in 2020 children accounted for 25% of all migrants.

On August 2, stranded migrants from Venezuelan refugee camps on the beach in Necocli, Colombia [File: Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP]

Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said: “I saw women walking out of the jungle with their babies after walking for more than 7 days without water, food or any protection. One kind statement then.

“These families are pushing their limits and putting their lives in danger, often unaware of how much risk they have taken. Those who eventually manage to cross this dangerous border are exhausted physically and mentally. Their humanitarian needs are urgent. And huge.”

But Bo said the danger has not stopped the many immigrants still stranded in northern Colombia.

“Although they may encounter all the risks, they still say they need to continue their journey, they need to get to a place where they can live a better life, but they will [also] Can help their relatives go home, whether in Haiti, Africa, Cuba or anywhere else,” she said.

At the same time, the foreign ministers of Colombia and Panama said on Friday that they will jointly handle and organize thousands of immigrants who have been stranded in northern Colombia for a long time.

On July 29, a policeman walked by stranded migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and several African countries as they prepared to board a boat and leave Necocli [Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP]

Colombian Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucia Ramírez said after meeting with Panama’s Metetti that the meeting will be held on Monday.

The discussion will “define how we will regulate a contingent, that is, the number of people who should preferably pass through one location, have a single point of arrival in Panama, and take transportation organized and controlled by the Colombian authorities,” Ramirez said.

She said that organizing immigration and improving the planning of transportation and travel routes will help protect them from crime, drowning risks and the dangers of Darien Gorge. She added that human trafficking is often closely related to drug smuggling.

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