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BOGOTA, Colombia, Thurs. Oct. 1, 2020 (Reuters) – More than 90 Haitian migrants were abandoned at sea by human traffickers as they tried to reach Panama from Colombia as part of their journey to the United States, Colombia’s navy says.

The Darien Gap, a stretch of jungle bridging Colombia and Panama next to the Caribbean Sea, has become one of the most important routes for illegally trafficking migrants – mainly Africans, Cubans and Haitians – who try to reach the United States by passing through Central America.

“The Haitian migrants were transported illegally in a motor vessel bound for Panama. However, during the journey the boat’s engines presented technical failures, leaving 61 adults and 33 minors adrift, abandoned at sea,” the navy said in a statement.

The vessel was assisted by a fishing boat that towed it to a port near the municipality of Acandi in Colombia’s Choco province. The navy later coordinated the migrants’ transfer to the city of Turbo, in Antioquia province, where they were left in the hands of the Andean country’s migration agency.

So far in 2020, Colombia has deported more than 3,800 undocumented immigrants, including over 3,000 Haitians, according to migration authorities.

As well as Haitians, Colombian authorities regularly detain Cuban, African and Asian undocumented migrants who hope to reach the United States with the support of dedicated human-trafficking networks.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Oliver Griffin Editing by Leslie Adler)

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