Haitian migration: A blessing for locals in Colombia

By Irene Escudero

Acandí, Colombia, Sep 28 (EFE).- An influx of Haitian migrants has significantly changed the scene in the northwestern coastal towns of Colombia, as some of the young inhabitants start to turn a blind eye to fishing to help those heading north to the United States.

Using their knowledge of the area to their advantage, local residents are finding new ways to increase their income by helping Haitian migrants carry their bulky luggage on motorbikes through the jungle routes in exchange for cash.

“Those who had one motorcycle now have two, all at our expense,” says a Haitian migrant, explaining how irregular migration can be profitable for many people.

A few months ago, Colombian local Juan Carlos was trying to make a living via transporting fishing-related goods on his motorcycle. His quest for income even led him to look for gold in the rivers of the Choco Department but his plans changed drastically when migrants decided to take on the dangerous paths of the Darien Gap.

Now, Carlos, a pseudonym, and his fellows charge $30 for transportation from Acandí, a Colombian border town with Panama, to a camp where travelers spend the night before starting the crossing.

“I hear on television that the passage of migrants through some countries is a curse, but for us, in Acandí, it is honestly a blessing because, after the pandemic, motorcycle taxis and Coachmen RV were introduced,” Freddy Pastrana, president of the Acandí community council that manages the camp, tells Efe.

Acandi, where at least 25% of the population is comprised of young people, is located in Choco, one of the poorest areas of Colombia where job opportunities are scarce.

This changed when they saw an opportunity they could not miss when in August this year, nearly 25,000 people crossed their town.

Guiding a group of migrants to the border can raise more money than one makes as a minimum wage.

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