Thousands of Haitian migrants stranded in northern Colombia

The Covid-19 does not cause them any concern. The migrants who arrived in the small village of Necocli, on the Colombian Caribbean coast, have only one idea in mind: to cross by boat the Gulf of Uraba to reach the village of Capurgana, then Panama, Central America and , finally – in how long? -, United States. Before dawn, a compact crowd throngs in front of the wicket of the two companies ensuring the crossing. Colombian authorities estimate that 12,000 of these migrants are waiting to continue their journey. Almost all of them are Haitians.

“I left Port-au-Prince after the earthquake of 2010. I first lived in French Guiana, where my daughter was born, then in Brazil”, says Michael, who worked as a bricklayer before the pandemic. With his family and friends, he made the bus trip from Sao Paulo. They had to cross Amazonia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, from south to north. Fifteen days of non-stop driving. ” It was long “, sums up the 7-year-old girl, to whom the authorities of Guyana refused a French passport. Most Haitians stranded in Necocli arrive, like Michael, from Brazil or Chile, the two South American countries that received the most Haitians after the 2010 earthquake. They stay in small hotels in the modest seaside resort, homestay or on the beach.

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Necocli normally has around 22,000 inhabitants. Panama, which officially reopened its borders eight months ago, is only letting migrants through in small quantities. Only 500 of them are allowed to cross the border every day. However, between 1,200 and 1,500 people arrive daily in Necocli. The town’s mayor, Jorge Tobon, expressed fears to the press that the number of migrants would reach 30,000 by the end of the month. “The phenomenon exceeds the institutional capacity of any municipality, in terms of health, housing, food”, declared the chosen one. Colombia is trying to convince Panama to increase its quotas.

Stranded Haitian migrants remain at a residence in Necocli, Colombia on July 30, 2021.

The migratory route through northern Colombia is not new. But never had Necocli received so many candidates for the American dream. How to explain the sudden migratory movement of Haitians settled in South America? On the spot, some mention the pandemic, others the coming to power of Joe Biden. The Colombian ombudsman, Carlos Camargo, discusses “Various causes”. He recalls that “Chile, which gave Haitians humanitarian visas after the 2010 earthquake, has not renewed their status” and consider that “The deterioration of the economic situation in Brazil and the crisis in Haiti since the earthquake of last August and the assassination of the president ” Jovenel Moïse also pushed the Haitians to leave. No one openly mentions the action of mafias to encourage migrants to leave their country.

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