03 January 2024
A record 520,000 migrants crossed the difficult and dangerous Darien Gap wilderness area between Colombia and Panama in 2023. Panamanian officials say that total is more than double the number recorded the year before.
The Panamanian government's migration agency says most of the migrants in 2023 were from Venezuela, Ecuador, and Haiti. And, agency chief Samira Gozaine said minors represented about 25 percent of the group traveling through the dense jungle.
"This is a national security problem," she told reporters at a government event. "Unfortunately, we do not have a quick solution to solve it."
The number of migrants crossing the Darien has sharply increased since 2019, when Laurentino Cortizo took office as Panama's president. Officials have called for international assistance to deal with the problem.
A major increase in Venezuelans fleeing the economic and social collapse of their country accounts for some of the migration flow. The United Nations says more than seven million Venezuelans have fled their country in recent years.
Those who cross the Darien risk murder, rape, human trafficking, and other violence. Natural dangers include heavy rains, sudden floods, poisonous snakes and other wildlife. Migrants must cross jungle rivers as well. There are no roads, bridges or services, including police and emergency workers.
In September, Reuters reported that African migrants heading to the United States are flying to Nicaragua to avoid the dangers of the Darien Gap.
I'm Dan Novak.
Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by Reuters.
Words in This Story
jungle – n. a tropical forest where plants and trees grow very thickly
unfortunate – adv. having bad luck