Haitian migrants rescued at sea off Colombia

Bogota (AFP) –


Around 100 Haitian migrants were rescued from a boat drifting off Colombia's Caribbean coast on Tuesday as they tried to reach Panama, Bogota's coastguard service said.

The boat carrying 94 people -- 33 of them children -- was abandoned by a trafficker when the engine failed, according to Captain Octavio Gutierrez, Coastguard commander for the Caribbean region.

The trafficker called another boat, "got on it and left them abandoned," Gutierrez told AFP, citing migrant accounts.

They were rescued by a passing fishing vessel before being taken ashore by the Colombian navy at Acandi, in the department of Choco.

All were migrants who said they were fleeing Haiti's economic crisis, according to Gutierrez.

They were later handed over to Colombian immigration authorities for processing.

The immigration service said they were likely to be returned either to their country of origin or to a third country.

The area, known as the Gulf of Uraba, is one of the main transit points for migrants from Africa, Haiti and Asia seeking to reach the United States via Central America.

The flow of migrants through the region dropped sharply after the January 2019 sinking of a boat carrying African children that left at least 19 dead.

Colombia and other countries in the region closed their borders earlier this year due to the coronavirus.