By Aljazeera â” Steven Grattan Nov 25, 2021 Manguenlove Bellegarde gazed up in disbelief at the steep mountainside he had to climb at the beginning of his journey through one of the world’s most treacherous frontiers
By Aljazeera â” Steven Grattan Nov 25, 2021 Manguenlove Bellegarde gazed up in disbelief at the steep mountainside he had to climb at the beginning of his journey through one of the world’s most treacherous frontiers.
¿Quieres recibir nuestro exclusivo boletín informativo en tu correo? ¡Suscríbete a #BoletinPatilla! Along with his Dominican partner and two young children, the 33-year-old Haitian was attempting to cross the Darien Gap – a lawless stretch of mountainous jungle 160 kilometres (100 miles) long and 50km (30 miles) wide between Colombia and Panamá.
It is the main route for refugees and asylum seekers who want to reach the United States border. With no roads, the only way to cross is on foot and by rickety riverboats.
“I almost turned back before I began. It was like climbing up a wall. We had to use the roots of the plants to pull ourselves up,” said Bellegarde. “On the third day, we passed a Panamanian military base, so I thought we were close… Oh my God, it took four more days.”
Heavy rains added more time to the journey – causing rivers to swell dangerously high, making them impossible to cross – and transforming an already dangerous trek into one more hazardous.
The trip was difficult physically and mentally.
“We saw six dead people, one of them in the camp where we slept,” said Bellegarde. “One was in the river, with their head buried in the mud. It looked like the river had carried him away and that’s where he ended up.”
A few weeks earlier, another Haitian, Steeven Pierre, 25, said he saw five dead bodies on the way.
“The journey was really quite hard, especially when the rain came. It was just mud, rivers and going up mountainsides non-stop,” said Pierre. “There were pregnant women, we had to walk in rivers … children were fainting, and even men, at times, who couldn’t continue.”
He decided to brave the Darien Gap knowing that some of his friends who left months before him had been deported back to Haiti upon arrival at the US border.
The Bellegarde family left Chile in August, where they had lived since migrating from Haiti in 2014. Like dozens of others Al Jazeera spoke to, they had been planning to leave Chile for some time citing poor job opportunities and racism. But the global coronavirus pandemic stalled the family, along with thousands of others.
As Latin América’s pandemic border restrictions ease, large groups of refugees and asylum seekers have been on the move again, causing bottlenecks in places like Colombia.
An estimated 19,000 people from Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela and African countries had gathered in the northwestern Colombian coastal town of Necocli, waiting to be allowed to cross the Gulf of Uraba to Acandi by boat, to begin their Darien journey.
Read More: Aljazeera â” Migrants brave perilous Darien Gap in desperate trek to US …
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