VIP Route to San Andres: Migrants Disappear on Dangerous Journey to the United States

VIP Route to San Andres: Migrants Disappear on Dangerous Journey to the United States

Over the past two years, the Colombian island of San Andres has become a “VIP route” for migrants seeking to reach the United States without having to cross the dreaded Darien Gap.

However, this route has been marked by the disappearance of numerous migrants, making San Andres a dangerous and tragic place for those seeking a better life.

San Andres: The New Route

The island of San Andres, located in the Caribbean Sea, has become a departure point for migrants seeking to reach the United States clandestinely.

According to Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office, migrants pay large sums of money, between $1,500 and $5,000, for “tourist packages” that include permission to enter the island and transportation in clandestine boats from San Andres to the port of Bluefields in Nicaragua. From there, they continue their journey through Central America and Mexico to the United States.

The attraction of this route is to avoid the dangerous Darien Gap, a jungle shared by Colombia and Panama, where river currents, animals and armed groups pose serious threats to those attempting to cross this stretch.

However, this alternative route also presents its own dangers, as we will see below.

Disappearances in San Andrés

Over the past two years, more than a hundred migrants have disappeared in San Andres. Relatives of the missing have recounted their experiences, revealing the precariousness of the boats in which they are transported, the lack of security measures, and the uncertainty surrounding the crossing to Nicaragua.

Migrants who decide to take this route often do so on the recommendation of friends, neighbors or acquaintances who have already crossed or know someone who has. These “guides” are in charge of processing the necessary tourist permit to enter the island and assure migrants that the trip will be safe.

However, many of them have experienced moments of doubt or fear before boarding the boats, aware of the risks involved in the crossing.

Dangers at Sea

Relatives of the missing have denounced the precariousness of the boats in which the migrants are transported. Many of these boats lack life jackets and weather conditions often force them to wait for long periods of time in clandestine locations before setting sail.

In addition, the presence of the Coast Guard increases the risk to the migrants, who try to evade patrol to avoid detection.

When a disappearance at sea occurs, family members turn to social networks for help. However, instead of receiving support, many of them are victims of extortion and death threats.

Some family members have reported that the social media accounts of missing migrants continue to be active after their disappearance, creating even more bewilderment and distress.

Agency: A Migrant Smuggling Group

In early December, Colombian authorities announced the dismantling of a group dedicated to drug and migrant smuggling called La Agencia. Among those arrested were five active members of the Colombian Navy, highlighting the complexity and seriousness of this illegal smuggling network.

The Colombian Attorney General’s Office has expressed its concern that San Andres is becoming a second Darien Gap, emphasizing the need to take measures to avoid further disappearances and tragedies.

Struggle of Relatives

Relatives of missing migrants face a bleak picture in their search for answers and justice. In many cases, they have joined together in groups and social networks to share information and support each other. However, some of these groups have been subject to manipulation and misinformation, making the search for the truth even more difficult.

Venezuela’s National Organization for Rescue and Maritime Safety of Aquatic Spaces (ONSA Venezuela) has played an important role in providing advice and support to the families of the missing.

Through chats on Telegram, the organization has put family members in contact with authorities in Colombia, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. However, it has also faced criticism and suspicion from some relatives, reflecting the complexity and mistrust surrounding this issue.

Hope of Finding the Disappeared

Despite the uncertainty and pain, many relatives of the missing cling to the hope of finding their loved ones alive. Although no bodies or belongings of most of the missing migrants have been found, some clues, such as passports found off the coast of Costa Rica, have raised questions and theories about the fate of the missing.

In the case of Ester, a Venezuelan migrant whose husband disappeared on the October 21 boat, the conviction that her husband is alive drives her to continue searching tirelessly for him. Despite threats, misinformation and lack of answers, Ester refuses to give up and will continue to fight until she finds her husband.

Conclusions

The situation of missing migrants on the VIP route to San Andres is a worrying and tragic issue. The lack of security measures, the precariousness of the boats and the presence of illegal trafficking networks have turned this route into a dangerous road to hope.

It is essential that the authorities take urgent action to prevent further disappearances and tragedies, and provide support and justice to the families of the missing.

Ultimately, the story of the missing migrants in San Andres is a heartbreaking reminder of the dangers and challenges faced by those seeking a better life.

A comprehensive and collaborative approach is needed to address this issue, including cooperation between countries, protection of migrants’ human rights, and effectively combating human smuggling.

Only in this way can we ensure a safer and more hopeful future for those who dream of a new beginning.