Today: April 22, 2024
Today: April 22, 2024

Transit of migrants through the Darien Gap resumes as Colombian boat companies end work stoppage

Share This
LA Post: Transit of migrants through the Darien Gap resumes as Colombian boat companies end work stoppage
AP
ASTRID SUÁREZ and MANUEL RUEDA
March 04, 2024

BOGOTÁ, Colombia (AP) — Migrants bound for the U.S. are once again crossing the Darien Gap in large numbers, officials in Colombia said on Monday, after being stranded for much of last week in a small town along the country's Caribbean coast due to a work stoppage by local boat captains.

Johann Wachter Espitia, deputy mayor of Necoclí, said that 3,000 migrants have left the town since Friday on boats headed towards the Darien jungle, with another 400 people waiting and sleeping in tents, as they gather money to pay for their tickets.

From Necoclí migrants board boats that take them to two remote villages, where the treacherous trails that cross the Darien Gap begin.

The dense and roadless rainforest divides South America from Central America and in recent years it has become a common, yet perilous route for hundreds of thousands of South Americans, Asians and Africans headed to the United States.

From Monday to Thursday of last week transit across the Darien dwindled as boat companies in Necoclí went on strike over the arrest of two of their boat captains by Colombia’s navy.

The captains had been intercepted after they left Necoclí in two boats carrying around 150 migrants and were accused by authorities of transporting migrants in unsafe conditions, and of contributing to human trafficking.

The two companies operating boat services from Necoclí towards the Darien Gap stopped their services in protest for four days. They resumed activities on Friday after holding several meetings with municipal and national government officials, who were concerned over the large numbers of migrants stranded in the small town. According to Colombia's Human Rights Ombudsman, around 8,000 migrants were stranded in Necoclí by Thursday, generating the potential for a public health crisis.

According to Wachter Espitia, the companies agreed to a request that migrants boarding their boats register on a government app. More details on the conditions for transporting migrants will be discussed in another meeting later this week, he said.

Colombia has long allowed migrants from different nations to transit through its territory without visas.

But the South American nation has come under increasing pressure from U.S. officials to stem the flow of migrants headed north, as record numbers of people seek asylum at the U.S. border.

Last year 520,000 people crossed the Darien Gap on foot, according to authorities in Panama, where most migrants register with officials in villages on the northern side of the jungle before they continue their journey to the United States.

Panama’s Security Minister Juan Pino said Monday that the number of migrants crossing the Darien could increase this year, with more than 73,000 crossings registered in the first two months of 2024, a 52% increase from the same period last year. Most of those crossings this year have been Venezuelans escaping their nation's economic crisis, followed by migrants from Haiti, China and Ecuador.

Despite its growing popularity, the Darien Gap continues to be a dangerous route where migrants have drowned while crossing swollen rivers and are exposed to robberies, sexual violence and tropical diseases.

On Friday Doctors Without Borders said it had treated 233 victims of sexual violence at its health posts in the Darien Gap during the first two months of this year.

In a report published last year, Human Rights Watch said the Colombian side of the Darien is run by the Gulf Clan, a drug trafficking group that is taking a hefty cut from the fees that migrants must pay to guides and porters that lead them to the border with Panama.

____

Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america

Popular

Olympic champion Jepchirchir wins women's race at London Marathon

Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya pulled away late to win the London Marathon women’s race on Sunday and cement her status as the favorite to defend her gold in Paris

15 people suffer minor injuries in tram accident at Universal Studios theme park in Los Angeles

A tram accident at the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in Los Angeles has injured 15 people

Ryan Garcia knocks Devin Haney down 3 times and hands his amateur rival his first pro loss

Ryan Garcia knocked Devin Haney down three times and handed the WBC super lightweight champion his first loss, winning the fight by majority decision but not the title because he was over the weight limit

Things to know about the NBA playoffs, which start Saturday

The Boston Celtics had almost no trouble at all with the 14 teams that didn’t make the playoffs this season, going 35-4 against those squads

Related

Tesla cuts the price of its "Full Self Driving" system by a third to $8,000

US commerce secretary downplays chip in advanced Huawei phone

Morning bid: Fragile FX, tech swoon cloud sentiment

Conservative Brazilians laud Elon Musk at rally in support of ex-president Bolsonaro

- Advertisement -
Advertisement: Limited Time Offer