Record number of migrants have crossed Panama’s Darien so far this year

Panama City, Jul 31 (EFE).- So far this year, a total of 248,901 undocumented migrants have crossed the Darien – the dangerous jungle that separates Panama and Colombia – a record number of travelers that exceeds the yearly total, also a record, for 2022, the Panamanian government announced Monday.

In 2022, 248,284 illegal migrants are known to have crossed the Darien, an “historic record” with Venezuelans being in forefront of the wave. Panamanian authorities have said on numerous occasions that they are expecting more than 400,000 migrants to cross the treacherous jungle region this year.

“Regrettably, today the (annual) record was broken, an unprecedented number for 2022. In 2022, 248,284 people entered Panama and today, regrettably, that record was broken, with 248,901 people,” Panama’s assistant director for immigration, Maria Isabel Saravia, told EFE.

In addition, she added, “Of that group, 21 percent are boys, girls and teens, and of those about 51 percent are children 5 years old or younger.”

The figure announced on Monday is the largest since records have been kept. In 2021, 133,726 people crossed the Darien, with 6,465 crossing in 2020, 22,102 in 2019, 9,222 in 2018, 6,780 in 2017, 30,055 in 2016 and 29,298 in 2015, when there was a wave of Cuban migrants.

In earlier years, substantially fewer migrants passed through the region, with 6,175 crossing the Darien in 2014, 3,051 in 2013, 1,777 in 2012, 283 in 2011 and 559 in 2010, the first year that official records were kept by Panamanian immigration authorities.

The Panamanian Public Security Ministry report notes that between Jan. 1 and July 31, 2023, most of the migrants crossing the Darien have been Venezuelans (136,650), followed by Ecuadorians (34,357), Haitians (34,082), Colombians (8,183) and Indians (3,299).

July has been the month so far in 2023 that has seen the most migrants cross the frontier (52,530), with 11,926 of them being minors, according to official figures.

According to figures cited by the authorities on other occasions, this year 40,000 migrant children have crossed through the jungle, including some that have become lost or have been found beside their mothers’ bodies.

Adverse weather conditions and the presence of armed groups have been increasing the level of danger in crossing the Darien, where migrants may be attacked, robbed or raped.

Panama is a crossing point for undocumented migrants who are heading for North America, and the government has established stations along the borders with Colombia and Costa Rica where it offers medical attention and food to migrants, a unique effort in the hemisphere involving a dozen international organizations or entities.

EFE –/bp

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