Colombia cancels flights of migrants returning from US over complaints of ill-treatment

A Colombian immigration agency has temporarily suspended a Colombian immigration program found by immigration officials at the U.S. border with Mexico, citing cruel and degrading treatment and last-minute flight cancellations, the agency said Thursday.

According to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), more than 125,000 people were apprehended at the US southern border in 2022, rising to about 6,200 in 2021.In recent years, the number of Colombians trying to immigrate north to the US has increased. .

Colombia expects to receive about 1,200 migrants on flights from the United States in the first week of May, the immigration agency said in a statement. A pilot project called “Mother Returns” is aimed at repatriating mainly women, children and youth to Colombia.

According to Colombian officials, the number of flights to Colombia under the program has risen to about 20 per month, following calls by US immigration officials for more migrants to be deported from the southern border before Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

Colombia’s migration agency said the plan was suspended after flights scheduled for May 1 and 2 were canceled.

“Both were canceled by North American immigration authorities before the scheduled flights arrived,” Fernando Garcia, head of Colombia’s immigration agency, said in a statement.

A US official said the gap was limited to flights with families.

The Colombian immigration agency did not immediately confirm whether the flights would continue with other migrants.

GarcĂ­a condemned the brutal and degrading treatment of some migrants before and after flights, including the use of handcuffs and leg shackles.

“There have been persistent complaints about poor conditions in detention centers and mistreatment during flights, which were the deciding factor in the decisions made in recent hours,” Garcia said.

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The US embassy in Bogota declined to comment.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lifting of the Covid restrictions, known as Title 42, which allows US authorities to deport migrants to Mexico without the opportunity to seek asylum, is due to take place on May 11.

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