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Big jump in the number of migrants crossing the dangerous Darien Gap in Panama


PANAMA CITY — The Panamanian government said Wednesday that 50,000 migrants crossed the treacherous Darien Gap connecting Colombia and Panama in the first two months of 2023, five times more than the same period last year.

For the whole of 2022, a total of 250,000 migrants have made the crossing, with big peaks in September and October, a trend that suggests the number is set to increase further later this year.

The increase was particularly notable among children and underage migrants. The People’s Defense Bureau said 9,683 migrants under the age of 18 crossed the jungle-clad Darien Road in January and February. It was seven times more minors crossed at the same time last year. The office said 1,119 of the latest young migrants were unaccompanied by adults.

The UN office and rights organizations said the Darien Gap crossing has now become an established route for migrants heading from South America to the US border.

“Year by year, the number of migrants crossing Panama is increasing, and the trend in the first months of 2023 suggests unprecedented growth,” said Alberto Brunori, the regional representative for Central America of the human rights office. UN man.

The 250,000 migrants who crossed in 2022 were nearly double the 133,000 who crossed in 2021, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The journey through the inhospitable jungle is fraught with pitfalls, including thieves, human traffickers, and the possibility of sexual assault. Armed groups operate in the area.

The unprecedented numbers come as the United States government attempts to make travel less attractive.

The administration said Jan. 5 that it would admit up to 30,000 people a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela through a process called humanitarian parole if they applied online, entered at an airport and found a financial sponsor.

At the same time, Mexico has agreed to take back the same amount from countries that illegally enter the United States and are deported under Title 42, which denies them the right to seek asylum, with the stated purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19.


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