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Colombia resumes deportation flights repatriating US citizens | Migration News

Colombia resumes deportation flights repatriating US citizens |  Migration News


The announcement comes a day after Colombia announced a suspension of flights, citing cruel treatment.

Colombia’s migration agency said flights would resume next week carrying deported citizens from the US border, a day after the South American nation announced it would temporarily suspend the deportation program over allegations cruel and degrading treatment.

Fernando Garca Manosalva, the head of Migracin Colombia, released a video statement Friday to address the policy change. In a message on Twitter, the agency affirmed that humane treatment and decent conditions during transfers will be the fundamental axis of the continuation of flights from the United States.

US authorities have expressed a willingness to act on the complaints, he wrote, attributing the goodwill of the parties involved.

The United States has used deportation flights, like this one to Guatemala City, as part of its strategy to deter arrivals at its southern border [File: Sandra Sebastian/Reuters]

The announcement follows a press release on Thursday declaring a temporary suspension of flights, intended to deflect undocumented arrivals from the US southern border to Colombia.

The press release cited repeated flight cancellations and the disturbing and degrading treatment that compatriots experience before and during flights as reasons for the suspension.

The use of restrictive elements such as hand and foot cuffs, even for women, mothers, was one of the central aspects of the negotiations with the agencies, to make the treatment of Colombians dignified, said Garca Manosalva in the press release.

The migration agency estimated that 1,200 Colombians were due to return on the then-suspended flights between May 1 and May 7.

Garca Manosalva said the number of flights has also increased: a year ago, Colombia received one or two a month. In February, he said, we were getting about 20 a month.

These figures coincide with an increase in the number of Colombians arriving at the US-Mexico border.

For fiscal year 2022, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) documented 125,172 encounters with Colombian nationals illegally crossing the southwest border, up from 6,202 the previous year and a significant jump from compared to the 404 recorded in 2020.

Already, around 89,201 crossings have been recorded for the first five months of the 2023 financial year.

The United States is now bracing for an anticipated increase in crossings as the controversial border deportation policy, Title 42, is set to expire on May 11.

The policy, enacted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic under then-President Donald Trump, allowed authorities to refuse asylum seekers on public health grounds, even though experts said its benefits were doubtful. Human rights activists have also called the move a violation of refugee law.

The United States is expected to finalize new rules to restrict asylum access at its southern border in the days before Title 42 expires. As part of its strategy for humane management of migration flows, the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden has dramatically increased the number of removal flights per week.

The number of weekly flights will double or triple for some countries, the Department of Homeland Security announced in April. Another agency, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), released a statement on Wednesday saying 48,381 people were deported from the country on deportation flights in the first half of 2023.

In late April, Cuba’s Interior Ministry confirmed that it had also resumed receiving removal flights from the United States for the first time since December 2020. It said the plane was carrying 40 people who had traveled to the United States by raft, plus 83 others who were detained at the US-Mexico border.




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