Colombia captures gang dedicated to migrant smuggling

Colombian authorities reported on Tuesday the results of an operation against migrant smuggling in which ten people suspected of belonging to a gang responsible for illegally taking more than 1,500 people from the border with Ecuador were captured with the promise of arriving in USA.

The band known as the “Errantes” would have coordinated the passage of migrants from Haiti, Nepal, India, China and some African countries. According to Major General Fernando Murillo, Colombia’s Director of Criminal Investigation and Interpol, people from Africa and Asia came to South America, specifically Ecuador, where the criminal gang had contacts that moved them through Colombia to the Daríen Gap, natural border with Panama.

The journey took approximately 236 days in which the migrants would have been exposed to “harassment” that included locking them up in hotels or houses against their will and taking away “their passports or belongings if they did not pay the cost they charged to take them to the Caribbean coast. ”, The Colombian police detailed in a statement released on Tuesday.

“The criminal organization allegedly shipped the migrants by sea using boats to Capurganá (Chocó). In addition, they continued through the Darién Tapon jungle to Panama where they were received by the ‘coyotes’ who coordinated the passage in the other countries until they reached the United States, ”reported the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office.

The operation was carried out on September 11 by the Colombian police in coordination with the United States Diplomatic Security Service Agency. Ten people were captured in three key Colombian cities in the migrant passage: Ipiales, located in the department of Nariño, Bogotá, Medellín and Necoclí, in the department of Antioquia.

Currently, more than 14,000 migrants remain in Necoclí, mostly Haitians, who crossed Colombia from the south without a visa, as required by the immigration authorities. Between 1,000 and 1,500 migrants arrive daily in this small town on the Caribbean coast, where they pay $ 50 for a boat ticket that takes them to Acandí, a town that connects directly with the Darien.

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The United States reported on Monday that it expelled from its territory more than 6,000 migrants who were waiting in a makeshift camp on the southern border, after traveling through several countries in Latin America and Central America.

Between January and August, more than 70,000 migrants have crossed the Darien, exposing their lives to the inclemency of the jungle and the armed actors, according to data from the security authorities of Panama.

Among those captured is Armando Wilson Meneses Tucanez, alias “Poli”, who is said to be the leader of the criminal gang. Meneses was captured in 2017 for the crime of migrant smuggling, however, he was currently deprived of his liberty from his home, in the department of Nariño, on the border with Ecuador, from where he would have continued to coordinate the sending of migrants.

Neither Meneses nor seven other detainees accepted the crimes of migrant smuggling, material falsification in a public document, violation of sanitary measures and conspiracy to commit a crime that were accused of them, said the Prosecutor’s Office. Seven of those captured were transferred to prisons and the remaining three have a home security measure.