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15/05/2024 19:34 (UTC)

MIGRANT CRISIS (Feature)

The migration route to the US for the LGTBIQ+ community: economy and freedom

Bajo Chiquito (Panama), May 15 (EFE).- For the LGTBIQ+ community, the migration route to the United States represents not only an escape from poverty to improve family economies but also a quest for the freedom to express themselves without hiding from attacks, persecution, and ridicule in their home countries.

"They discriminate against us, the LGTBIQ+, for being who we are, but it's not our fault. It's what the world does to us, you understand?" Yunio Ramírez, a 23-year-old Venezuelan, tells EFE in Bajo Chiquito, the first indigenous village reached after days of trekking through the Darién jungle between Colombia and Panama.

After emerging from the jungle following a three-day hike, Yunio made the final leg of the journey to the village by canoe on the Turquesa River.

"My friends told me, 'When you see the canoe, that's when you see God,' and it literally was like that," he says, sweaty after leaving that "horrible jungle" where they were robbed.

Yunio worked in a bakery in Venezuela, but "the salary isn't enough," and then there's the discrimination. "They discriminate, they say things... In the United States, I haven't seen any discrimination," he says, anxious to arrive.

In his country, a homosexual is not allowed to donate blood, a trans person is forced to legally identify with a name that doesn't represent them, and same-sex couples have no right to marry.

Support for the community during the journey

Prominent Panamanian LGTBIQ+ activist Iván Chanis warns that this group is "in a vulnerable condition due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, but they also face all the possible discriminations or vulnerabilities attributed to a migrant," such as age, being a woman, indigenous, ethnic minority, or having some kind of disability.

The head of Humanitarian Aid for the European Union for Central America and Mexico, Liesbeth Schockaert, also highlights the vulnerability of LGTBIQ+ migrants due to their status as a "minority," among whom "many people hide their identity in this situation to protect themselves."

The EU humanitarian worker, who supports projects by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) along the entire migration route, emphasizes to EFE that while responding to migrants as they exit the Darién is important, where over 520,000 people crossed the jungle last year alone, a historic record, it is crucial to continue support throughout the rest of the journey.

"What we see is that everything that isn't taken care of in the Darién, we see later on the route, everything is connected. People sometimes have health problems in the Darién, but it's more important to continue," she explains.

A woman can become pregnant from rape in the jungle and later have a miscarriage or develop a disease that worsens along the way, making collaboration with the Red Cross, present throughout the route, essential to "track these cases."

First assistance

After spending the night in the village of Bajo Chiquito, migrants pay for a spot in a canoe to go downriver to the shelter set up by Panamanian authorities in Lajas Blancas, where humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross provide "safe water," food, free international calls, and medical care.

April Staples, field coordinator for the Red Cross migration program based in the Darién, tells EFE that they attend to 50 to 100 migrants daily, depending on the flow, with ailments ranging from the common cold, diarrhea, and gastroenteritis due to jungle passage, to chronic disease management like diabetes.

Andri Manuel Adrián, a 24-year-old Venezuelan, and his family were robbed in the jungle. They lost $900, he tells EFE. Without money to pay for a canoe spot, they had to walk for hours.

"It's like coming through the desert; you don't find a drop of water, nothing." His sister and nephew fainted from dehydration.

Upon arriving in Lajas Blancas, they were attended to at the Red Cross post, and "thank God they are okay now," and at the shelter, they regain strength and try to gather some money to continue.

Andri Manuel is transgender, and as he walks past the men waiting in line for lunch, they whistle and jeer, but he ignores them.

He left his country because of the economic crisis, where "the salary only gets you flour, bread, and a bit of cheese, nothing more," and because "homophobia in Venezuela is too great, the discrimination."

Now he takes the opportunity to dress as he wishes, in a backless t-shirt, something that would be "too much there, liberating myself, because after so many jokes, I have to endure it all," laughs the young person, who dreams of reaching a country like the United States where "there isn't so much discrimination."

At least, he says, he has never had any problems with his family. "Since I was little, they gave me a doll in a cart, under the tree, and I would take my sister's doll. They say I have more female hormones than male." EFE

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(photo) (video)

(The EFE Agency produced this article with the collaboration of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), whose migrant work programs are supported by donor funds such as the European Union).

BAJO CHIQUITO (PANAMA), 15/05/2024.- A migrant waits to be registered by immigration after walking for several days through the Darién jungle towards the United States, on April 9, 2024, in Bajo Chiquito (Panama). For the LGTBIQ+ community, the migration route to the United States represents not only an escape from poverty to improve family economies but also a quest for the freedom to express themselves without hiding from attacks, persecution, and ridicule in their home countries. EFE/ Bienvenido Velasco

LAJAS BLANCAS (PANAMA), 15/05/2024.- Venezuelan migrant Andry Manuel Adrian combs his hair at the Lajas Blancas immigration reception station after walking for several days through the Darién jungle towards the United States, on April 10, 2024, in Lajas Blancas (Panama). For the LGTBIQ+ community, the migration route to the United States represents not only an escape from poverty to improve family economies but also a quest for the freedom to express themselves without hiding from attacks, persecution, and ridicule in their home countries. EFE/ Bienvenido Velasco

BAJO CHIQUITO (PANAMA), 15/05/2024.- Venezuelan migrant Yunio Ramírez, 23, waits to be registered by immigration after walking for several days through the Darién jungle towards the United States, on April 9, 2024, in Bajo Chiquito (Panama). For the LGTBIQ+ community, the migration route to the United States represents not only an escape from poverty to improve family economies but also a quest for the freedom to express themselves without hiding from attacks, persecution, and ridicule in their home countries. EFE/ Bienvenido Velasco
 

LAJAS BLANCAS (PANAMA), 15/05/2024.- A migrant is attended to by the Red Cross at the Lajas Blancas immigration reception station after walking for several days through the Darién jungle towards the United States, on April 10, 2024, in Lajas Blancas (Panama). For the LGTBIQ+ community, the migration route to the United States represents not only an escape from poverty to improve family economies but also a quest for the freedom to express themselves without hiding from attacks, persecution, and ridicule in their home countries. EFE/ Bienvenido Velasco

LAJAS BLANCAS (PANAMA), 15/05/2024.- Venezuelan migrant Javier Vargas, 25, cooks at the Lajas Blancas immigration reception station after walking for several days through the Darién jungle towards the United States, on April 10, 2024, in Lajas Blancas (Panama). For the LGTBIQ+ community, the migration route to the United States represents not only an escape from poverty to improve family economies but also a quest for the freedom to express themselves without hiding from attacks, persecution, and ridicule in their home countries. EFE/ Bienvenido Velasco

Bajo Chiquito (Panama), May 15 (EFE).- For the LGTBIQ+ community, the migration route to the United States represents not only an escape from poverty to improve family economies but also a quest for the freedom to express themselves without hiding from attacks, persecution, and ridicule in their home countries.

SOUND BITES OF MIGRANTS ARRIVING FROM VENEZUELA IN THE INDIGENOUS VILLAGE OF BAJO CHIQUITO AND THE LAJAS BLANCAS MIGRANT CENTER, WHERE THEY ARE CARED FOR BY THE RED CROSS.  SOUND BITES OF VENEZOLAN MIGRANT YUNIO RAMÍREZ AND VENEZOLAN MIGRANT ANDRI MANUEL ADRIÁN.

Video by Carlos Lemos. Video editing: Pepa Agüera.

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The migration route to the US for the LGTBIQ+ community: economy and freedom

The migration route to the US for the LGTBIQ+ community: economy and freedom

The migration route to the US for the LGTBIQ+ community: economy and freedom

The migration route to the US for the LGTBIQ+ community: economy and freedom

The migration route to the US for the LGTBIQ+ community: economy and freedom

The migration route to the US for the LGTBIQ+ community: economy and freedom

The migration route to the US for the LGTBIQ+ community: economy and freedom

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