HAVANA TIMES – Desperate to not be deported to Cuba, thousands of migrants from the island decide to risk their lives in the jungles of Colombia and Panama. The following is an alert about their situation.
Between the Jungle and Nothingness
A month and a day after the violent and unconstitutional eviction, detention and expulsion of 121 Cubans from Ecuador, has revealed a complex and problematic situation around the migrant population from the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, which at the same time reveals the consolidation of a system of migration control in South America, similar to global patterns of this nature.
Of the information collected in recent hours the following facts are noteworthy:
• As a result of the threat of mass deportation given by Colombian immigration authorities, the warehouse that housed more than a thousand Cubans, including pregnant women, minors, the disabled and the elderly, has been virtually emptied. It is estimated that about two thousand Cubans have taken their clandestine transit to the Darien jungle in order to get to Panama.
• It is known that Colombian immigration authorities deported about forty 40 Cubans supposedly to Ecuador, and another fourteen (14) were deported directly to Cuba on Sunday August 7 on an aircraft of the Colombian Air Force. Ecuadorian authorities have not officially confirmed the whereabouts or legal status of the deported group, while Cuban authorities have confirmed the arrival of the first group of deportees.
• Information provided by Cuban migrants in Turbo confirms that although Colombia continues to provide safe conduct for those wanting to voluntarily leave the country, there are still threats and actual arrests.
• Haitian citizens including men, women and children continue to arrive at the Ecuadorian/Colombian border crossing of Rumichaca, after making a long journey from Brazil where their economic situation has deteriorated in recent months. They seek to continue on to Central America and from there to the USA.
• At least 194 Haitians were intercepted by Colombian Immigration in the Rumichaca International Bridge and their whereabouts are unknown. According to statements in the national media by the Ecuadorian police, this group has not entered Ecuadorian territory.
• While fewer in number compared to other nationalities in transit, reports from different sources and the Colombian and Ecuadorian media, note the presence of migrants from Asia and Africa, passing through the same routes and under the same conditions of violence towards the north.
• Reports on Colombian television and the international press confirm that Colombian authorities launched a campaign that penalizes any act of solidarity of the community of Urabá towards migrants located in this region. Alleging information purposes only, Colombian police handed out pamphlets with the following message: “For a safer Urabá: Report [the presence of migrants]”.
• According to information in the local media, raids are being conducted by Immigration and the General Intelligence Directorate in Tulcan, Carchi [near the Ecuadorian border with Colombia], and have included the inspection of hotels and pensions.
Given these events, we alert the following:
• Given the refusal of the Colombian and Ecuadorian governments to find effective solutions to the immigration status of the migrant population in transit, people are confined to a legal limbo characterized by widespread fear and helplessness.
• As a chain effect of restrictive responses Ecuadorian and Colombian States, we warn that migrants from the Caribbean and outside the continent are being pushed to transit via the Darien jungle, which is a true path between life or death.
• We denounce Colombian Immigration for using of legal euphemism for “voluntary deportation” aims to hide the forced departure of migrants to the dangerous route of the Darien jungle.
• We denounce that a process of open discrimination and criminalization of migrants in transit is taking place in Ecuador and Colombia, whose effect has been to produce marginalization and stigmatization of this population as disposable pariahs without humanity.
• We denounce the campaign of the Colombian police to leaflet and punish the local population for helping the migrants, in an open promotion of xenophobia and criminalization of solidarity by the people of Turbo.
• We warn that the often used pretext to combat people trafficking continues to conceal the flagrant violation of human rights as a result of the application of restrictive immigration policies that impede the free movement of migrants in the region.
• We warn that the absence of a public debate about the events in Ecuador and Colombia, is leading to an alarming process of normalization of forms of state and social violence against the migrant population in transit.
Faced with these facts we cannot but ask ourselves:
1. Given that Colombian Immigration stated in its Press Release No.40 of July 27, 2016, that so far this year they have deported 5,800 migrants, we must ask ourselves where this population is and under what conditions were they deported? What authority has protected their rights and compliance with due process? What is the situation of deportation in other countries in the region? How can we handle such publicly embarrassing figures without causing public outrage and pronouncements and coherent solutions with a region that has a long history of migration?
2. Where is the solidarity of the Latin American states? Where is the sense of regional integration, the supposed consensus on the rights of migrants, and pronouncements against the non-criminalization of the migrant population in Latin America?
3. What is the commitment towards human mobility of UNASUR in their understanding of South American citizens in contrast to the migrants who have been abused in Ecuador and Colombia?
4. Who is responsible for the safety of people who now march into the unknown? Who has produced with their indolent actions the pushing of a mass of people into the hands of coyotes and traffickers? Does the sickening reiteration of the war against migrant trafficking and all the arguments put forward to justify the use of military violence, breath life into the rotting corpses of migrants in the Darien jungle?
We send a message extending a warm embrace to the people of Turbo, whose poor streets contain a beautiful source of solidarity. Your generosity has been so dangerous that the Colombian state has done nothing but persecute and punish, because the powers that be need selfish citizens who abhor solidarity. We provide our support in this way in the distance against any government attempt to punish acts of solidarity from the community, in an effort to use the intimidation of locals as a tool to limit migratory flows in the region.
We continue calling on civil society, human rights groups, social organizations and the population in general to learn about the militarization of migration control in the region; to denounce the regime of control and deportation that criminalizes and forces people in transit underground; and to look for creative and inclusive solutions with the intervention of states and regional institutions. This conducted in a context characterized by the defense of the dignity and the lives of hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking to realize their dreams and improve their living conditions.
Collective in defense of human rights and migrants!
Quito, August 9, 2016
Arcentales Javier Illescas
Francisco Xavier Caicedo Hurtado
Velasco Soledad Alvarez
Luis Túpac Yupanqui
Juan Pablo Albán
Lina Maria Espinosa
Alex Valle Franco
Martha Cecilia Ruiz