PANAMA (October 9, 2021)—To reach freedom, migrants risk a dangerous jungle in Panama.
More than 91,300 migrants – most of them Haitians – have trekked through Panama’s dangerous Darien Gap jungle so far this year in hopes of reaching North America, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday.
Citing statistics from Panamanian migration authorities, the IOM said 56,600 Haitian migrants had passed through the Darien Gap, one of the most dangerous routes in Latin America, between January and September of this year. Many had children with them.
The total for nine months of the year triples the previous record set for all of 2016, when 30,000 migrants took the route, the IOM said.
“Border closures and economic contractions due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in irregular migration,” Santiago Paz, who heads the IOM mission in Panama, said in a statement about the figures.
“Caribbean and extra-regional migrants make the crossing in extremely vulnerable conditions and are exposed to risks along their migratory route, particularly in the crossing of the Darien Gap on the border between Panama and Colombia,” Paz said.
“The situation faced by irregular migrants in transit in the Latin American and Caribbean region must be addressed from a regional approach and cannot be the responsibility of a single country,” Paz said. ” The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”. recommends cooperation among States to respond quickly and coherently to the needs of migrants in vulnerable conditions, and this need for cooperation is especially evident in the Darien.”
The announcement comes as the United States maintains a near-total border closure to those seeking asylum at the country’s borders, and as Mexico and other countries in Central America have blocked people trying to transit through their territories on the way to the US.