Colombia to deport U.S.-bound Cuban migrants stranded in Turbo
BY MARIO J. PENTÓN
Colombian authorities will deport Cuban migrants stranded in the town of
Turbo, perhaps to the country from where they arrived, according to Juan
Manuel Caicedo Cardona, chief spokesman for Colombia's Immigration
"We are working on an announcement, waiting for a court order to go into
the warehouse where the Cubans are staying," Caicedo said. "We will
start by verifying the status of each of the people there and then start
the deportation process."
There are about 950 Cubans in Turbo near the border with Panama, the
next step on their trek north to the United States, Caicedo said. The
number is much lower than the 2,000 reported by government ombudsmen and
the 1,350 mentioned by the mayor of Turbo in an interview with el Nuevo
DEPENDING ON THE RESULTS OF THE PROCESS, WE WILL DETERMINE WHETHER THEY
WILL BE SENT TO CUBA OR TO THE OTHER COUNTRIES FROM WHERE THEY ARRIVED.
Juan Manuel Caicedo Cardona, Colombia immigration spokesman
"This is an administrative process, based on the law. The people could
face legal charges," he said. "Depending on the results of the process,
we will determine whether they will be sent to Cuba or to the other
countries from where they arrived."
If they refuse to be deported, Caicedo added, Colombian authorities
might use force to remove them. "These processes are backed by the
police and the army. The goal is to bring their status in line with the
law, but the law must be obeyed," he said.
Caicedo denied allegations that Colombia is pushing the Cuban migrants
to hire people smugglers and continue their trip north. "The idea is
that these people being processed do not take risks. We want to maintain
an orderly and safe migration that does not expose people to risks. We
don't want people to go into the jungle, and we are not pushing them" to
reach Panama, he said.
According to Turbo Mayor Alejandro Abuchar: "If the migrants don't
decide to continue on their way to the border, migration officials and
[Colombian] President [Juan Manuel] Santos most likely will come after
them and deport them."
Abuchar recently declared a "state of public calamity" for the
municipality but denied that it was due to national government pressure
to do so.
THE MUNICIPALITY IS OVERCROWDED. THAT COULD LEAD TO SERIOUS BUDGET
PROBLEMS, DISEASES OR SECURITY PROBLEMS
Alejandro Abuchar, mayor of Turbo
"The municipality is overcrowded. That could lead to serious budget
problems, diseases, or security problems," he said. "We are talking
about thousands of people who need to bathe, eat and go to the bathroom.
There are pregnant women and children. There's a lot of them."
"Immigration is planning only to go into the Cubans' shelter, but many
of them are not in the shelter. They are staying in rented homes or in
camping tents. What they are talking about is deporting the ones they
have registered," said the mayor.
Luis Gonzalez, a Cuban migrant in Turbo who arrived from Ecuador, said
he would hide to avoid being deported. "I don't want to return to Cuba.
Ecuador did the same thing to us. They have me between a rock and a hard
Other Cuban migrants said the situation in the shelter is tense.
Andy Sanchez said Cubans are expecting immigration authorities to burst
into the shelter but he said that they are not going back to Cuba. "That
is not an option for us."
Sources told el Nuevo Herald that several dozen Cubans already have left
Turbo to walk across the jungle and into Panama.
Government ombudsman William González de la Hoz said he was "depressed"
by the planned deportations. "This is like a bucket of cold water. If
this is a decision taken by the president, it kills anything that I can
try to do," he said.
Santos on Wednesday confirmed that the Cuban migrants stranded in Turbo
would be deported in a process handled by the Foreign Ministry and
"We have to change the law to more effectively control these types of
migrants, who create problems for the mayors of the cities where they
gather," Santos said in a statement.
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Source: Hundreds of Cuban migrants in Colombia are likely to be deported
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