Interview: What is happening with the migration crisis in Antioquia?

Deputy Camilo Calle Explains Why the Colombian Department Is Having A Serious Immigration Crisis.

Forced displacement in Ituango, Antioquia

Camilo Calle, a young deputy from Antioquia for the Green Party, explains the reasons why the department is going through a serious migration crisis. Photo: Vanguardia

LatiAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: Entrevista: ¿Qué está pasando con la crisis migratoria en Antioquia?

Camilo Calle, a young deputy from Antioquia for the Green Party, explains the reasons why the department is going through a serious migration crisis. One in the northwest, due to the large flow of migrants heading to the United States, and another in the north, due to the upsurge in violence in the area.

Latin American Post: What is happening in Necoclí, in the border between Colombia and Panama?

Camilo Calle: Necoclí is a municipality in the Urabá subregion, it is one of the 4 municipalities on the coast of the Gulf of Urabá. There is San Juan, there is Arboletes, there is Turbo and there is Necoclí. It has experienced a migratory phenomenon for many years. These people from different countries, arrive in Brazil, go up through the south of Colombia, cross a large part of the country and then arrive in Necoclí. Necoclí becomes a step in the road in their path to Obaldia port, which is the first Panamanian town, after La Miel, which we share between Panama and Colombia.

These people ask to get there to continue their transit to the United States and that is important to note. This migratory phenomenon, which of course is a humanitarian problem that we face, is aimed at humanitarian migration. Migration is a natural phenomenon for human beings. Migrating is not a crime and that must be said by the Colombian authorities, who often detain migrants and make them appear in mug shots as if they were part of the Gulf Clan. 

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These people want to get to the US. Why? This migratory phenomenon was aggravated due to the COVID crisis and many people who came in that process have to stop while the borders open and the economy reactivates. They are no longer groups of 200 people, but groups of thousands of people. According to the Urabá Police Department, between 5,000 and 7,000 people arrived. This is a lot of people. There are 100 towns in Antioquia that have less population than that. 

Migration Colombia, in an extemporaneous way, arrived in the municipality. They came last week and have been here for several weeks now. I think that institutional order has been sorely lacking. 

I believe that Migration Colombia, the Municipality, the Government, and the other actors should create humanitarian transit paths. Colombia does not have to dedicate itself to closing the borders or having a diplomatic dispute with Panama, that is not ideal. These people have a dream, and it is to migrate and reach a place. They save and risk their lives to fulfill the dream. A responsible country has to guarantee conditions, they must have food security while they make this temporary transit and take the boat, they must have access to a health program from the Colombian State. Among them, there are many women in a state of pregnancy, children, elderly people. It is a dramatic issue and these people are going to face the Darien gap.

You have to do education. These people are human beings and this must be told to the people of Urabá and Necoclí. These people are not here because they decided to go on vacation to Necoclí. They are trying to escape from a  harsh reality, it is very difficult trying to get to the US to fulfill the American dream. What happened?  The maritime transport companies cannot cope with 5 thousand, 7 thousand people. This makes this group of people focus on Necoclí.

LP: There is a security problem in the municipality of Ituango that is representative of the department. We have seen a migration crisis as well.

CC: Ituango is in the north of Antioquia and here there is a deliberate connection with Bajo Cauca, another sub-region of Antioquia, the most violent. Bajo Cauca is a sub-region that has been hit hard by institutional neglect and illegality. There is a substructure of the Clan del Golfo led by alias Machín, and it began to make threats in rural areas and rural areas of Ituango. This generated the exodus of 4,200 peasant people who decided to move to the populated center of the municipality because there were no guarantees of survival, because these structures move through Bajo Cauca as they please. We have repeatedly demanded a little more operability from the national and regional government.

Ituango is the expression of non-compliance with the peace accords. If there is somewhere in Antioquia where the voluntary substitution of illicit crops should be implemented, it is in Ituango. But the only thing that Ituango receives is lead. There are 10,000 men of the public force there, in 6 municipalities, a sub-region of 300,000 people.

Everything is part of this scenario of the breach of the peace agreement, this political decision to tear this agreement to shreds and ignore it. The government of democratic security has this type of phenomenon and this is only solved through social investment. The only way that this political sector could demonstrate results was through false positives. The Army says they captured alias Machín, but I don't think that by capturing this man things will improve. They will do so by focusing the magnifying glass on tertiary roads, secondary roads, on peasant productive projects, on the process of restitution of land, or, at least, a serious process in the middle of agrarian reform.

The largest human exodus that Colombia has experienced, is in this subregion. There are around 15 or 20 thousand people who arrive displaced by the violence and are invisible to the media. 

LP: You have already mentioned these two moderately close crises and in two subregions of Antioquia, but under a pandemic context. What difficulties is Antioquia facing and how to guarantee sanitation in the department?

CC: I see the issue of the Necoclí migrants as more serious, because the first thing they ask of you when you go to get vaccinated is your identity document. There has to be a unified Colombian Migration post while all this happens. The lack of supply of vaccination for the migrant population must be huge, because they are not going to vaccinate them. First, because there is an over-demand for vaccination ... and this creates a problem for all citizens. There are thousands of human beings interacting, buying, touching bills, being vectors of a virus.

For its part, migration in Ituango does not have as many risks in relation to the pandemic. Those who have wanted to be vaccinated, from the population of Ituango, in populated centers of the municipalities of Antioquia, have been able to do so. Nationals have many more guarantees.