Ecuador has become one of the countries of passage for Haitians who travel the continent to the United States, a growing phenomenon since June and that makes this group prey to the lucrative business of migrant smuggling.

The irregular steps that line the Carchi River, the natural border between Ecuador and Colombia, and which in the last five years have seen thousands of Venezuelans cross in both directions, have in recent months become the scene of a new migration that crosses the continent and that it is also guided by dozens of coyoteros who lead entire families to Colombian territory.

"About three months ago, a little more, the exodus of migrants of Haitian nationality began", explains to Efe Fernando Villarroel, administrator of the land terminal of the Ecuadorian city of Tulcán, bordering Colombia.

DRIPPING SINCE JUNE

As of June, he estimates that between 450 and 650 Haitians have arrived at the bus terminal daily, mostly from Huaquillas, the Peruvian-Ecuadorian border in the south of the country, which, like Rumichaca, the entrance to Colombian soil, remain officially closed since the beginning of the pandemic.

Direct bus transport is the means of choice for most of this flow, although "those who do not get a direct ticket arrive by transfer from Guayaquil, Quito, Ambato and Riobamba", says Villarroel.

This new migration has led to about thirty people from Tulcán turning to the business of coyoterism to "take them to the other border and pass to (the Colombian town of) Ipiales", to a price "ranging from $ 15 to $ 25 per person", clarifies the person in charge of the terminal.

It is a phenomenon "visible" between dawn and noon, when the bulk of the buses loaded with Haitians arrive, and they do not take long to head in private vehicles and vans towards the irregular passages driven by the coyotes, with whom they generally agreed to their journey from the Peruvian border.

PREVENTION OPERATIONS

The National Police, in coordination with the Armed Forces, carries out operations against these practices in the main areas where migrants arrive, as well as in irregular crossings such as Urbina and Cuatro Esquinas, among others.

Some organizations dedicated to migrant smuggling have been dismantled in the Ecuadorian border province thanks to these devices in which intelligence units and the Judicial Police intervene, the chief of operations of the Carchi subzone, Lieutenant Colonel Alejandro Flores Borja, explained to Efe.

"Unfortunately (migrants) are used by unscrupulous people who cheat on these foreign citizens"said the officer, who assures that they can be extorted with payments that exceed 1,000 dollars.

The dispute over control of the trails this week has led to clashes between gangs, with shootings that left one injured on Tuesday and one dead four days ago, and the intervention of the armed forces of the two countries to restore security.

Haitian families are surprised by this type of operations by the security forces in which their belongings are searched and they are forced to get out of the vehicles in which they are transferred to the Colombian side.

Mothers with young children and adults carrying mats are the images that have been repeated in recent times and portray a population that retraces its path after migrating south in 2010 after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, or remained in countries like Brazil at the expire their temporary contracts after the construction of the 2014 World Cup stadiums.

TRAFFICKING NETWORKS

The Vice Minister of Human Mobility of Ecuador, Luis Vayas, told Efe that the official statistics on the Haitian population that is regularly in the country show the number of 350, although he acknowledges that "it is difficult to calculate" the unofficial figure.

"We know and have been in the eastern Ecuadorian provinces where they enter", he assured.

The official recalled that the Foreign Ministry continues "the criminal situation" what this type of migration entails "in relation to the transnational networks of trafficking in persons and illegal smuggling of migrants that use the desire of Haitian citizens of Brazil and Peru to bring them to the United States".

And he warned that the same organizations that carry out these practices are often involved in drug trafficking.

REQUEST HUMANITARIAN ATTENTION FROM COLOMBIA

According to Jhon Rojas, governor of the Colombian department of Nariño, it is estimated that more than 4,000 migrants in Ecuadorian territory seek to cross into Colombia.

"There are boys and girls, we need humanitarian care for them", asked before regretting that the region "it’s nobody’s territory" and despite the closure of the border with Ecuador, the emigrants "enter through all irregular points".

Migration Colombia reported that more than 27,000 people of different nationalities, especially Haitians, entered its territory irregularly in August, the majority from Ecuador.

The UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) has expressed concern about the situation of Haitian migrants who are in "very precarious conditions" on the US-Mexico border.

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