Numbers of migrants crossing Darién Gap into Panama surpass 2021 figures

Panama City, Sep 23 (EFE).- The number of migrants in transit to North America that have arrived in Panama this year after crossing the notorious Darién Gap have already surpassed last year’s figures, the government reported Friday.

Those crossing the dangerous jungle region shared with Colombia surpassed last year’s historical figure of 133,726.

“Panama reinforces its humanitarian and security team that works in the border communities because, this Friday, the figure of 134,178 migrants who have entered the country was reached, after crossing the thick Darién jungle,” the Ministry of Public Security said.

The ministry added that to date, 343 boys and 231 girls have been registered in the communities of Bajo Chiquito or in Canaan Membrillo and reception stations, where they are provided with health care, food and accommodation.

While last year the vast majority of irregular migrants were Haitians, this year it is Venezuelans crossing the most with 80,000 so far, according to the National Migration Service (Senafront).

The migrants are all bound for North America, especially the United States.

Panama takes irregular travelers into reception stations on its borders with Colombia and Costa Rica. There, biometric data is taken and people receive food and medical attention in a unique operation in the region that consumes millions of dollars a year, as the government has said.

According to data provided to EFE Friday by Senafront, so far this year, at least 26 migrants have died crossing the Darién Gap, a 266-kilometer journey through thick, dangerous and inhospitable jungle.

Just this week a six-year-old Venezuelan boy was killed when armed men attacked a group of migrants in the jungle. His father received a gunshot wound to the cheekbone.

Senafront head Oriel Ortega said on Friday in an interview with local network TVN that he condemned the “vile, cowardly act” and that the culprits would be caught.

Ortega added that members of this “criminal” group offer help to migrants cross the jungle and then commit their “misdeeds.”

However, most of those who died this year in the jungle drowned. Among the victims are many nationals of Asian and African countries that are not familiar with mighty rivers like those of the Darién, Ortega said.

“There are times when we find bones or corpses in an advanced state of decomposition and they are buried at the site on the route, but are marked with GPS geo-referenced systems,” he added.

In July, the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations refugee agency warned that 192 migrants had died during their transit through Central America and Mexico so far this year.

The Darién Gap is considered one of the most dangerous migration routes in the world, both because of its wild environment and because of the presence of armed groups.

Migrants say they have suffered attacks and sexual assaults by criminals in the jungle, some of whom have already been arrested and sentenced in Panama, according to the authorities. EFE


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