First modification: 08/05/2021 – 17:15
The migratory route from south to central America is not new. Thousands have been passing through the region for several years to continue on their way to Mexico, the United States or Canada, passing through the impassable Darien jungle, a natural cap full of dangers. This step is the only option to cross into Panama by land, so many migrants decide to take the risk. A France 24 team visited Necoclí, a Colombian municipality overwhelmed by the damming of some 15,000 migrants.
Walking through the streets of Necoclí is like traveling through a small Haiti.
The hotels are full, the commerce sells what is necessary to cross the jungle and the houses make temporary hotels to accommodate the thousands of migrants who remain stranded there. Those who have no way to pay for their stay, rest on the street.
The road that leads to the dock is a grocery market. Flashlights, batteries, stoves, rain capes, a preparation to scare away snakes, mats and boots, everything that is needed in the jungle to survive is sold there.
A few meters further on, the street remains closed, especially during the days of ticket sales to board a boat to the neighboring town of Capurganá. There the migrants are divided into two lines: those who are about to embark and those who are looking to buy a ticket.
The problem is that there are no boats to transport so many. 12 boats leave daily with an approximate of 800 people. Sunday is a day of rest, despite the size of the crisis only a boat with tourists leaves the dock.
One after another, those in the starting line advance until they wait their turn. They have a group leader and go up to 10 or more. This chapter of the transit for them closes that day, but some have even been in Necoclí for a month waiting for a ticket.
If the route is not new, neither is this crisis. The news about the damming of migrants in this area of Colombia was visible after a ticket sales Monday. The agglomeration of people and the complaint via social networks drew attention to what was happening in the region. The situation has been getting worse for months.
Remy, a professional who returns to migrate
In the midst of the uproar of people between those who are looking for a ticket and those who already have it, Remy appears, a Haitian professional, who returns to migrate after living four years in Chile. A paradise that ceased to be so for the thousands of Haitians who sought a better future there.
“After the pandemic, Chile has a very different attitude towards immigrants (…) In my case, I don’t see a future for myself. I studied and I want to emerge, to have more opportunities. That is why I decided to leave Chile and go to the United States ”, he says.
Remy Wilford has a soul of service. In Haiti he worked as a math, physics and chemistry teacher and collaborated with some NGOs to help children with HIV. However, his country was never an option. Shortly after our first meeting, Remy was with the ICRC volunteers serving as a translator so that his compatriots could call home and communicate with their families. He knew that several days awaited him in Necoclí and he had to do something to feel useful.
“They take advantage of us, but the people benefit”
There are those who can’t take it anymore. Some are running out of money for accommodation and food and at the end they are lost days on the trip north.
Desperate for the days she has been in Necoclí, Desir Pierrette says she no longer has any money. This Haitian woman denounces that on the way they stole everything she was wearing, including her clothes. She travels with her husband and her little son and her ticket indicates that she embarks on August 6, eight days after our meeting and 15 in total since she arrived in Necoclí.
Her family pays $ 20 a day for a bed in a house that is in poor condition and is now considering sleeping on the beach. “I want to be able to pass because I am exhausted, I cannot resist anymore, it is a very difficult situation to live. I want to go on my way ”, he assures while carrying his son.
For Samir Rijkoord, the locals in Necoclí win with the arrival of migrants and he denounces that they take advantage of the situation. “I want to denounce the company (El Caribe SAS) that sells the tickets, it is not possible for them to sell every Monday. What are they doing? The tickets are sold to the hotels and they resell them to the immigrants. To get one, you have to go to a hotel. Here, (in the official sale) it is 50 dollars, in hotels between 70 and 100 dollars. But if I buy it legally, I must wait at least three weeks. It’s not possible! ”Samir complains.
A new dock and more boats, the Government’s solution
With a humanitarian problem present in the territory, the Colombian Defense Minister, Diego Molano, was sent from Bogotá to attend to the crisis.
While the municipality remains in a state of public calamity, the Government proposes a floating dock that allows the evacuation of more migrants from the area and more boats to transport them as the main solution.
However, reaching a dam of up to 15,000 migrants is not a matter of days and the route through northwestern Colombia is not new.
Panama reported that only in July 19,142 people entered its territory through this route.