Colchane, Chile – Allyson’s breathing becomes heavier as she progresses past the informal border crossing and makes her way through the vast, high-altitude wetland where Bolivia meets Chile.
Accustomed to living with a disease that affects her lungs, the 5-year-old girl speaks in a low, hoarse voice that sounds almost grown-up: “We came to Chile for my surgery and work.”
The young girl and her family are among tens of thousands of Latin American migrants and asylum seekers who have braved the highland and its extreme temperatures for a new life in Chile. In recent years, the country has become a major migration hub – and an alternative to destinations like the United States.
But the journey is difficult and the Chilean government has stepped up efforts to close its borders to undocumented migrants. Yet for refugees and migrants like Allyson, who hail from Bolivar, Venezuela, the journey can mean the difference between life and death.
“At the hospital we were told to leave because they couldn’t cure me in Venezuela if I got sick again,” she explains panting as the trail takes her across one of the world’s highest borders, over 4,000 meters above sea level. .