Colombia faces new humanitarian crisis as thousands of migrants stuck in beach town

Region is transit zone for refugees from Latin America, Africa and Asia trying to reach US.

Colombia faces new humanitarian crisis as thousands of migrants stuck in beach town

Colombia is facing a new humanitarian crisis triggered by more than 14,000 migrants who are held up in Necocli. 

The undocumented migrants, most of them from Haiti and Cuba, are stuck in the beach town in Antioquia department waiting to cross a jungle corridor known as the Darien Gap, which is controlled by illegal groups, in the hope of reaching Panama and then the US.

Collapsed health services, failures in the water supply and an imminent sanitary risk due to the increase of garbage in the streets have contributed to worsening the crisis.

​​"We went from 15 tons per day to 45 or 50 tons. The sewage service is very precarious because it is more than 47 years old, and it was built when the urban center had 4,500 inhabitants,” said the mayor of Necocli, Jorge Augusto Tobon. “Now there are 22,000 of us plus 14,000 migrants.”

According to Tobon, around 100 migrants arrive daily at the health center with stomach and respiratory issues. Many of them have been infected with the coronavirus, given that this population has not been vaccinated and does not have the money to buy masks.

​​Dozens of migrants, including pregnant women and children, sleep in hotels, hostels and houses rented for days, while others settle in tents on the shore of the beach.

A shipping company that transports people across the Gulf of Uraba on Colombia's northern coast into Panama has been unable to keep up.

While almost 2,000 migrants arrive daily in Necocli, the neighboring country does not allow entry to all. Tobon has called on the Panamanian government to allow the daily entry of more people, as it currently only authorizes 500.

"If we continue like this, we could have between 25,000 and 30,000 people held by the end of September," said the mayor.

The Uraba region of Antioquia is a transit zone for refugees from Latin American nations as well as Africa and Asia crossing the Darien Gap and Central America to reach the US.