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5 May, 2023 08:47

South American nation blasts US over treatment of migrants

Colombia suspended its repatriation program due to poor detention conditions and mistreatment, the authorities have said
South American nation blasts US over treatment of migrants

Bogota has suspended the repatriation of citizens from the US, citing cruel treatment of migrants and repeated 11th-hour cancelations of flights, the local authorities have said.

In a statement on Thursday, Fernando Garcia Manosalva, Colombia’s migration agency director, said the country expects to receive around 1,200 migrants – mostly women and minors – back from the US between May 1 and 7 as part of a pilot plan to alleviate pressure on America’s southern border.

However, the agency accused the US of breaching agreements on the matter. Manosalva claimed that flights scheduled for May 1 and 2 were both canceled by North American migration agencies, and that this was not the first time.

Bogota also complained of what it called the “cruel and degrading” treatment Colombians receive from the authorities before and during the flights. The migration agency director pointed to “the use of restrictive elements such as hand and foot handcuffs, even for mothers,” adding that the matter is being discussed with the US authorities.

In addition, “there are recurring complaints about the poor conditions in detention centers and mistreatment during flights, which represented a determining factor in the decisions taken in the last few hours,” Manosalva stated.

An unnamed US official told Reuters that the pause only applies to flights carrying families.

The number of Colombians entering the US has increased in recent years, with around 125,000 migrants apprehended at the southern border in 2022, according to US Customs and Borders Protection data.

The pilot plan seeks to repatriate 1,200 Colombians before the expiration of Title 42, a controversial Trump-era order which allows the US to expel migrants from countries where a communicable disease – including Covid-19 – is present. The order is set to lapse on May 11 when the Covid-19 public health emergency is set to end.

Human rights advocates have repeatedly voiced concerns about US immigration policies. In April 2022, a Human Rights First report claimed that the administration of US President Joe Biden had put tens of thousands of migrants in jails in violation of international law, subjecting them to physical and psychological harm.