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MIGRANCY

Migration through Panama’s perilous Darien Gap hits all-time high

Migration through Panama’s perilous Darien Gap hits all-time high
Migrants line up in the Bajo Chiquito community to be transferred to the San Vicente Migration Reception Station (ERM) in Meteti, Panama, 11 March 2023 (issued 20 March 2023). Despite the difficulties on their journey due to the geographical and climatic conditions, the number of dead bodies they see along the way, and the violence and sexual abuse they suffer from criminals, the flood of migrants crossing the Darien jungle on their way to the United States continues to increase. So far this year alone, more than 70,000 people have crossed the Darien Gap, according to official data from the National Migration Service of Panama, a figure five times higher than that registered during the same period in 2022. After leaving the jungle and arriving by canoe at the Embera community of Bajo Chiquito, the migrants are transferred to one of the reception centers of the Panamanian authorities, where they are given shelter and help before being sent north by bus. EPA-EFE/Bienvenido Velasco

PANAMA CITY, July 31 (Reuters) - The number of people crossing the treacherous Darien Gap linking Panama and Colombia hit an all-time high in the first seven months of the year, figures released on Monday showed, with July seeing a sharp jump despite recent efforts to curb the trend.

Official data showed 248,901 people walked through the jungle area between January and July, already surpassing the record of 248,284 recorded for the whole of 2022, with most aiming to reach the United States, according to data from Panama’s Security Ministry.

Entries to Panama from Colombia through the jungle region have continued to rise despite a two-month program launched in April by the United States, Panama and Colombia to tackle undocumented immigration.

July recorded the most crossings, with 52,530 people taking part in the dangerous journey, up 77% from June, mostly from Venezuela, Haiti and Ecuador, according to the data.

The flow of migrants has skyrocketed from previous years, despite the start of the rainy season, Panama’s Security Minister Juan Pino said earlier this month.

Some 20% of the people who have crossed the jungle this year are minors, 51% of whom are under five years old, migration official Maria Saravia said at a press conference where the new figures were presented.

The United Nations forecast in April the total number of crossings would surpass 400,000 this year, with the organization warning that migrants crossing through the jungle are exposed to disease, violence, sexual abuse and human trafficking.

By Elida Moreno

(Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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