In a stunning revelation, the Panamanian government announced today that an unprecedented 520,000 individuals, including approximately 120,000 minors, crossed the treacherous Darien Jungle in 2023 en route to the United States.
Panama's Ministry of Public Security has provided data that reveals a significant increase compared to the 248,000 migrants recorded in 2022. Among those seeking a better life in the United States, the majority are from Venezuela (328,667), followed by Ecuador (57,222), Haiti (46,558) and China (25,344).
The diverse group also included migrants from Vietnam, Afghanistan and various African nations. The perilous journey through the 575,000-hectare jungle covers 265 kilometers and usually takes migrants three to six days. There is information that there are many children, but unfortunately we do not have official information.
These data on the number of migrants are official, but must be taken with a grain of salt, because it is very likely that the number is much higher. The number of migrants in 2023 is more than twice as large as in 2022, which is a really worrying trend.
The difficult fate of migrants in the jungle
The Darien journey presents migrants with numerous challenges, including the threat of criminal gangs. In a disturbing report published in November 2023, Doctors Without Borders uncovered over 400 cases of migrants being raped while traveling through Darien.
Shockingly, 97 percent of the victims were women, and several cases involved young girls. To address the surge in migration via this route, Panama implemented a series of measures in September, including deporting those who entered the country illegally.
Despite these efforts, the numbers continue to rise, underscoring the urgency of finding comprehensive solutions to this humanitarian crisis. After migrants successfully cross the Darien, they continue their journey through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico before reaching the southern border of the United States.
The harrowing conditions faced by these individuals underscore the need for international cooperation to address the root causes and provide safer alternatives for those seeking a better life. No one would go through the jungle through all the dangers with children if there were no "real" reasons.