2021-10-08 23:47:22 More than 91,000 migrants crossed perilous Darien Gap this year | Migration News
More than 91,000 migrants crossed perilous Darien Gap this year | Migration News
According to the IOM, the majority of those who took Panama’s perilous jungle route in the hope of reaching North America are Haitians.
More than 91,300 migrants, the majority of whom are Haitians, have made their way through Panama’s dangerous Darien Gap jungle this year in the hope of reaching North America, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Friday.
According to the IOM, 56,600 Haitian migrants passed through the Darien Gap, one of the most dangerous routes in Latin America, between January and September of this year, citing data from Panamanian migration authorities. Many of them were accompanied by children.
The total for the first nine months of the year more than triples the previous record set for the entire year of 2016, when 30,000 migrants took the route, according to the IOM.
“Border closures and economic contractions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an increase in irregular migration,” said Santiago Paz, head of the IOM mission in Panama, in a statement.
“Caribbean and extra-regional migrants make the crossing in extremely vulnerable conditions and are exposed to risks along their migratory route, particularly at the Darien Gap on the border between Panama and Colombia,” Paz said.
The announcement comes as the US maintains a near-total border closure for those seeking asylum at the country’s borders, and as Mexico and other Central American countries have blocked people attempting to transit through their territories on their way to the US.
Armed gangs control the Darien Gap, a 575,000-hectare (1.42 million-acre) stretch of jungle on the border between Panama and Colombia. Smugglers typically lead small groups through the route, but many are robbed, assaulted, or raped along the way, and dozens have died this year alone.
Panama announced this week that more than 50 migrants have died while attempting to cross the jungle pass in 2021. However, officials said that number is almost certain to be lower than the actual death toll for those who make the journey.
In recent years, 20 to 30 bodies have been recovered on average per year, but observers say this year’s death toll reflects a surge in migration.
Many of the deaths, according to experts, are the result of natural causes such as heart attacks or falls. Drownings and snake bites are also common occurrences. Others, however, are assaulted and killed by armed gangs.
The Darien Gap route has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks after nearly 15,000 people, the majority of whom were Haitians, camped out under a bridge in south Texas last month, hoping to seek asylum in the United States.
Many had left Haiti years ago and had been living in Brazil or Chile before crossing the Darien Gap to the US border with Mexico on food.
The Biden administration has come under fire for deporting thousands of Haitian asylum seekers back to the country, which is dealing with deadly gang violence, political instability, and the aftermath of a recent earthquake.
According to Giuseppe Loprete, the head of the IOM mission in Haiti, the United States has sent over 7,500 people back to Haiti to date.
On Thursday, rights groups petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to demand that the US stop using a public health directive to immediately deport the vast majority of asylum seekers who arrive at the border.
The former US envoy to Haiti, who resigned in protest of the Biden administration’s treatment of Haitian asylum seekers, told US lawmakers this week that deportations would exacerbate the country’s crisis.