Fate of Somalis still undecided
PANAMA. Somalia is a country suffering from constant infighting, with a history of failed peace agreements since the creation of the st...
PANAMA. Somalia is a country suffering from constant infighting, with a history of failed peace agreements since the creation of the state in the 1960s.
The struggle hit Panama’s shores last week.
The renewed violence in the Horn of Africa nation is pitting pro-government fighters against those allied to al-Shabab, an insurgent group seeking to overthrow Somalia's Western-backed government and establish an Islamic state.
Since 1991 more than a dozen peace agreements have been brokered between the warring factions, but none have brought about political stability or restored security.
As a result, hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled war in Somalia to camps in neighboring Kenya.
Others have ventured on the sea to more distant destinations, like Europe, and more recently, even Panama.
Panamanian authorities found a ship carrying 11 Somalis, including two children, who had Panama as their destination. When their ship suffered problems near Chiman, two of the Somalis traveled inland to alert authorities and a rescue team was dispatched.
The 11 Somalis were initially taken to the Coquira port, then to the Rodman base, and ended up under the custody of the National Migration Services, which is investigating.
Different stories have been circulating as to why and how the Somalis ended up in Panama.
Some versions say they left Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, last February with United Kingdom as a destination, but that they were taken down from the ship and placed in a smaller vessel until they reached Colombia and then San Buenaventura in Chiman.
Another version says the Somalis paid thousands of dollars each to travel from Somalia to Colombia with the aim of moving to Panama.
The legal status of the Somalis is still undecided.
Human rights organizations are worried mainly for the two children travelling without their parents.
To date, no one knows what fate will bring for the Somalis and no refugee aid organization has approached them to verify their legal status (which could range from illegal immigrants, to human trafficking victims to refugees if they solicit the status).
Language has been a big barrier, as immigration officers try to communicate with a group that includes only one person speaking broken English.