ছবি Reuters file photo: Immigrants gather at a store in Colombia’s Necocli, waiting to enter Panama to continue their journey to the United States in September 2021. No archive / file image
By Henry Esquivel
NECOCLI, Colombia (Reuters) – Many Haitian migrants heading north through Colombia are wondering if they will continue their journey to the United States after deporting more than a thousand people from the U.S.-Mexico border this past week.
Nearly 1,000,000 migrants are stranded in the northern Colombian town of Necocli as they wait for limited boat transport to the jungles of Panama’s Darian Gap, where smugglers lead groups through treacherous territory.
Thousands of migrants pass through Necocli annually, but the closure of the Covid-1 border this year has led to an increase in the number of repatriations, making the city’s utility and social services even worse.
Some migrants are wondering where to stop on their journey, they told Reuters, after deporting 1,400 Haitians from the United States who had gathered in camps on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border – returning to the Caribbean country since Sunday.
“Some people are fighters who are not going to give up their dreams,” said Gabriel, a Haitian immigrant from the port of Nakouli.
Those who want to help the family return home can wait in Mexico before entering the United States, Gabriel said, who did not give her the title.
“Everyone is waiting for the decision of the U.S. government to see if it calms down and how they can enter the immigration process.”
The U.S. special envoy to Haiti resigned Thursday, accusing the Biden administration of “inhumane, inhumane” deportation, while Mexico has called on Haitians to return to the border with Guatemala to seek asylum.
Many immigrants have spent years in other Latin American countries, such as Chile and Brazil, before attempting to travel north, and now feel they may be barred from entering the United States.
“What we want is for them to be allowed in the United States before the border closes for us,” he told Reuters this week. “They’re going to take away our dreams.”
Colombia and Panama agreed last month that up to 500 migrants could cross each day, but local officials have repeatedly called for an increase in their quotas, saying it is too low to keep up with the 1,500 migrants arriving in the city every day.
Immigrants – many with small children – flock to hotels or sleep on the beach, waiting in non-stop lines in the rainy season to get boat tickets.
When it is finally their turn, they have life jackets, their belongings tightly packed and protected from spray by masking tape. The journey across the Uraba Bay takes only an hour.
A spokesman for Colombia’s immigration authority said it respects Panama’s quota and that tickets for the boat crossing had already sold out by mid-October.
Panama President Lorentino Cortizo told the UN General Assembly on Thursday that more than 20,000 illegal immigrants have traveled through Panama this year. He called for international assistance, saying his country was spending its limited budget on caring for migrants.
Some seem to be abandoning the dream of at least reaching the United States.
“I’m going to stop there when I go to Mexico,” said a Haitian immigrant who did not want to be named. “I don’t want to enter the United States right now.”