Recently one boat with around 18 migrants on board after sailing from Necoclí (Antioquia), Colombia towards Panama, capsized. This is one of the busiest migration routes when people trying to reach the United States, cross through the thickest jungle in the world — the Darien jungle.
Post-COVID 19 global pandemic, this is the first instance that has come to attention in 2021, indicating that the young from India, Bangladesh and Nepal continue chasing their dream of going to the US. And they are willing to travel through the worst routes to realize their dreams and often use the South American nations as their springboard to enter the USA.
Those who were rescued by the Colombian Navy and the Coast Guard have been taken into custody and interpreters have been hired to understand the nationality of those rescued and those who have either drowned or gone missing. Reports indicate that four castaways who were rescued from the Caribbean Sea were possibly from India or Bangladesh. When search for others started a Nepalese citizen too was rescued from Isla Fuertes, near Cartagena, Colombia. At the time of rescue, there were no identification papers and after getting interpreters their nationality was identified and also that there were women and children on the boat. What is not clear however is the number of Indians on the boat?
Human Trafficking is a big industry
The multi-billion dollar did not get affected by the global pandemic of Coronavirus. A new study released earlier this month by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “Although many parts of the world came to a standstill, the COVID pandemic did not slow down human trafficking.”
And, with airports and borders opening gradually, the movement of the migrants from India, Nepal and Bangladesh has started. These people are willing to pay several thousands of dollars to reach their dream country – either the US or Canada. The majority of those willing to move are from Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh as well as other states.
Once these young men and women reach one of the countries in South America, they then start moving in groups and work in local shops or restaurants and at times are used as narco-mules. South and Central America are the chosen routes due to the visa arrangements.
As has been reported earlier by Financial Express Online, a 2018 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) Asia Report has mentioned that “The migrants whose final destination is the US prefer going through countries including – Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, El Salvador, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Colombia and Nicaragua.
Embassies of some of the South American nations located in India issue visas to the citizens of Nepal and Bangladesh from here.
The journey through Darién Gap
The Darién Gap is a lawless wilderness on the border of Colombia and Panama, everything from deadly snakes to anti government guerrillas. The wilderness jungle is accessible only on foot or by canoe. It also breaks territorial boundaries across the North and South American continents within Central America. The region also sees a flow of migrants from Cuba, Africa, and Asia, whose desperation sends them on perilous journeys to the US and Canada, where risking robbery, kidnapping, and death to document one of among the world’s most harrowing treks.
How do these migrants move – their route
After disembarking from buses in the Colombian towns of Turbo or Necoclí, the migrants then must cross the Gulf of Úraba, where local fishermen can easily be hired as smuggling facilitators.
To cross Darien Gap takes 6 to 8 days on foot and closer to 10 days during the rainy season. Most of the days it is not only raining constantly, the temperature is consistently 85 degrees Fahrenheit. According to data from the United Nations (UN), in 2019 17,668 migrants moved through that area of the country, of which 3,170 were Haitians. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the migrant traffic dropped to just 3,887.
More about the accident
Based on the reports, a boat with 18 people had left Necoclí (Antioquia), and was bound for Panama, before the boat capsized and there were only few rescued which means, the rest either drowned or were still missing.
After their boat wrecked, four of the 18 were rescued by fishermen in Puerto Escondido (Córdoba), who were found on the coast of Puerto Escondido (Córdoba) and few others rescued by the Navy of Colombia from Isla Fuertes, Cartagena and another castaway in the Caribbean Sea off Sucre.
Indians deported in the past from Colombia
Each migrant on an average pays a thousand dollars for transiting through Colombia. In 2019, Indians were deported from Colombia for illegally trying to enter Ecuador.
Diplomats from the region on condition of anonymity have admitted that trafficking from this side of the globe has become a huge problem and all stakeholders including the governments and the missions are working together to take strict actions against the traffickers.