Bishop warns of humanitarian crisis on Colombia-Panama border involving migrants to U.S.

Colombia migration Thousands of migrants cross Colombia to the Darién jungle. | Photo credit: EWTN News (video capture)

Bishop Hugo Torres Marín of Apartadó said Oct. 11 that there is a humanitarian crisis near the border with Panama as there are thousands of people risking their lives to cross the Darién jungle on their way to the United States. 

For several days, thousands of migrants, many of them Venezuelans, have been arriving in the area of Colombia that lies across the Gulf of Urabá from Panama and are waiting in the town of Necoclí on the Colombian coast for the opportunity to cross by boat to Capurganá in Panama, and from there cross the Darien Gap on their way north to the U.S., a journey of more than 3,000 miles.

However, along the route they are exposed to theft, human trafficking, and death.

In response, the director general of Migration Colombia, Fernando García Manosalva, recently traveled to the Urabá region to review the situation in the Colombian towns of Carepa, Turbo, Apartadó, Necoclí, Acandí, and Capurganá, where there are about 8,000 migrants.

In a statement to Noticias Caracol, Bishop Torres, in whose diocese these towns are located, said that “I do believe that this is a humanitarian crisis.”

The prelate said that almost all the migrants are Venezuelans. “Many are arriving in extreme poverty, without money, without clothes, without adequate shoes to cross a border and a road as difficult as the Darién,” he said.

“What’s bad,” he pointed out, “is that the demand has meant that the boats aren’t capable of transporting so many people and they have to stay on the beaches, because they have nothing to pay for a hotel and that makes the lives of these people [much worse].”

The bishop, who asked the authorities to find adequate solutions, related that he visited the town of Capurganá. “I found myself with a very young population, between 30 and 40 years old, who are going blindly on their way,” he said.

“They just want to get to the United States, improve their living conditions, improve the health of their children, [receive] special (medical) treatments for their families,” but they are disoriented, he said.

Torres said that on the way the migrants meet “many people asking them for money … others want to rob them, others treat them badly.” The citizens of the countries the migrants are passing through often view them with indifference and don’t help them, he added.

In a statement to the AP, the people’s ombudsman of Colombia, Carlos Camargo, said that the current situation is “much more serious” than that of 2021, when thousands of people, mostly Haitians, arrived in Necoclí.

“The number of people on the move who have gone on to Panama [so far in 2022] exceeds 150,000 compared [with] the 134,000 migrants in all of 2021. And the trend is to continue to increase,” Camargo said.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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