Migrants are crossing the Darien Gap of Panama in greater numbers

PANAMA CITY, (Reuters) – Just over 170,000 migrants have crossed the dangerous Darien Gap, which connects Panama with Colombia, in the first five months this year, according to Panama’s Migration Agency. The agency also suggested that 2024 may again set records.

Data from the National Migration Service showed that this is 2% more than the 167,000 people who crossed in the same time period last year. Many of these people are seeking better jobs in the United States and so they take the risky journey.

The Darien was a record-breaking year in terms of migration. More than half a milllion people crossed this stretch of dense jungle, where migrants trek for days on foot and are often subjected to robbery or violence. They may also be victims of human trafficking, sexual abuse, or even exploitation.

Panamanian authorities sought international assistance and strengthened border security after the record numbers, but numbers continue to rise.

The new government that will take office on July 1 is planning to tighten its southern border to stop migration. However, it hasn’t yet revealed its strategy.

SNM reported a decline in April/May due to the beginning of the rainy seasons.

Authorities reported that people from Venezuela, which is facing an economic crisis and political turmoil, were the largest group of people crossing the Darien gap.

SNM reported that 4,499 more people had crossed in the first six of June. 901 of them were children.

The upward trend this year may be affected by the broad asylum ban that U.S. president Joe Biden imposed last week, which could discourage migrants from making their journey. The uncertainty surrounding the results of the November election in the U.S. in which Donald Trump, a former Republican president, is running to return to office, could also affect migrant flow.

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