Colombia Sentences Smugglers of Russian and Venezuelan Migrants

Published: 16 October 2023

San Abdres IslasThe Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina is currently in crisis due to high levels of irregular migration, given its privileged geographic location. (Photo: *Iván Erre Jota*, Flickr, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

A Colombian court has convicted three migrant smugglers who were caught ferrying Russian and Venezuelan nationals on motorboats across the Caribbean Sea, part of a migrant route to the United States.

Marlong Rafael Quiroz Mariano, Jeison José Campos Baldiris, and Michell David Gómez Díaz have each been sentenced to five years and three months in prison for smuggling people in the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina, located northwest of Colombia and off the coast of Nicaragua.

In August 2022, the Colombian Navy detected two boats sailing in the area of Cayo Alburquerque. One was manned by Gómez Díaz and Quiroz Arias, carrying nine Venezuelans, and the other was piloted by Campos Baldiris, with four Russians and two Venezuelans aboard. All the passengers were illegal migrants.

The three convicted individuals had their home detention measure revoked, and the prison sentence was imposed. In addition to serving their sentences in the Nueva Esperanza penitentiary center, they will have to pay a fine of 33.3 Colombian minimum wages, which amounts to almost US$9,000.

The Attorney General's Office has expressed concern about the serious issue of irregular migration in the archipelago due to its geostrategic location. It is an attractive option used by criminal networks for the transit, smuggling, and trafficking of persons due to the lack of risk involved, unlike the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia.

Moreover, promotional packages with a tourist facade are being offered on vessels that violate minimum safety conditions and current maritime regulations, posing the risk of shipwrecks.

According to the Attorney General, this route serves as a bridge for reaching countries such as Nicaragua more quickly, eventually continuing to Mexico and ultimately serving as a destination for the United States. The release also references figures from Migration Colombia, which register Venezuela, Uzbekistan, and recently citizens from China, Vietnam, Serbia, Nepal, Belarus, and Bosnia as the main nationalities of migrants using this migratory route.