Fishermen on the Gulf of Morrosquillo in Colombia have rescued several groups of Bangladeshi nationals, all apparently shipwrecked after their makeshift vessel en route north collapsed, Colombian media reported Wednesday.
Their presence on the other side of the world from their home countries is part of a larger surge in Asian and African migrants using lax immigration laws in places like Brazil and Ecuador to reach the Americas, in the hopes of migrating to the United States or Canada. It also arrives as Colombia copes with the bulk of the impact of the largest migrant crisis in the history of South America, triggered by socialism in Venezuela. Colombia recently agreed to legalize all Venezuelan nationals in the country regardless of how they crossed the border in a gesture of gratitude for the once-wealthy neighboring country taking in Colombians fleeing communist terrorism for decades.
Colombia’s El Tiempo cited Colombian authorities as believing, following interviews with the rescued migrants, that at least 17 people were on the sunken vessel, which has yet to be found and reportedly sunk four days before the first reports of local fishermen finding people adrift at sea. One group of fishermen reportedly rescued four Bangladeshi nationals on Tuesday night, while another group rescued a fifth person, from Nepal, on Wednesday.
“Once we received knowledge of a sinking in Puerto Escondido, units were sent to find these people,” local official Captain Juan Pablo Huertas told El Tiempo.
The Mayor of Puerto Escondido, the town closest to where the migrants were found, noted that, initially, authorities had difficulty identifying the individuals, as they did not speak Spanish and could not communicate. Local authorities guessed that they were from India and later clarified the situation. She described the migrants as exhibiting “signs of dehydration and one of them [a woman] is in a more delicate state” and has been hospitalized. The migrants indicated that among the missing were children.
The migrants rescued said they were attempting to reach Panama. El Espectador noted in its coverage of the incident that authorities documented 15,000 people making a similar crossing from Colombia between January and May of this year, apparently heading towards the United States.
Authorities on the U.S. southern border have documented an increase in the number of individuals from Bangladesh and other south Asian nations attempting to enter the country.
“In Fiscal Year 2018, Laredo Sector Border Patrol experienced an unprecedented increase in the apprehension of nationals from the country of Bangladesh,” Laredo Sector Chief Patrol Agent Felix Chavez told Breitbart News in October of that year. “The almost 300% increase in arrests of Bangladeshi nationals over the previous fiscal year highlights the hard work and vigilance of the men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol.”
Border patrol officials in Arizona similarly documented an increase in Bangladeshi nationals on the border in January of this year.
“Although the majority of illegal border crossers caught within Yuma Sector’s area of operations come from Mexico and from Central American countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala, Border Patrol agents have recently seen an uptick in crossers originating from the countries of Bangladesh and Uzbekistan,” Yuma Sector officials said in a statement in January. The officials noted that most Bangladeshis seeking to enter the United States “are, for the most part, escaping persecution for their political beliefs, which oppose those of their government leaders.”
Bangladesh is a majority Muslim country and home to a robust Islamist political contingent. It documented some of the highest rates of mob protests last year against the government of France following the jihadist beheading of a schoolteacher there, Samuel Paty, over the teacher’s decision to study cartoons of Muhammad in class. French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the beheading, triggering violent outbursts in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and other Muslim countries. Mob violence against Hindus, Christians, and other religious minorities is also common.
Bangladesh is facing its own migrant crisis as a result of neighboring Myanmar targeting its own Muslim population, mostly of the Rohingya ethnic group. Thousands of Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh, putting a strain on government resources and resulting in the creation of refugee camps and other facilities condemned by human rights groups.
In 2019, the Migration Policy Institute noted in a report that the “profile of migrants moving through Latin America — many with hopes of reaching the United States — has considerably diversified” in the last ten years, particularly adding a large number of individuals from Asia and Africa.
“Most extracontinental migrants enter the Western Hemisphere through legal means — either with a visa or because a visa is not needed,” the think tank explained. “They arrive in South American countries with lax visa requirements, particularly Ecuador, Brazil, and even Guyana. … Extracontinental migrants most frequently have the United States or Canada in mind as their final destination, though … some abandon their quest and instead remain in South America.”
Colombia’s surge in “extracontinental migrants” began around 2006, the institute relayed. Their arrival is adding to the strain of another million refugees from Venezuela crossing the border into Colombia, seeking freedom and avoiding starvation under socialism. Bogotá estimated in its most recent reports that it has taken in about 1.7 million Venezuelans of a total of 6 million that have fled since they voted for socialist dictator Hugo Chávez in 1999. Conservative Colombian President Iván Duque moved to legalize them all this year; as of June 17, officials stated that 813,000 Venezuelans had completed the documentation process to become legal residents of Colombia.