By Avellon Williams
PANAMA – A massive jungle and one of the world’s most dangerous routes, through Panama, is the Darien Gap Jungle.
This year it was recorded that some 91,300 migrants, mostly Haitians, trekked through Panama’s Darien Gap Jungle between January and September of this year. Many carried children on their backs in hopes of reaching North America, declared by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Head of the IOM mission in Panama, Santiago
Paz, said, that this amount triples the previous record in 2016 when 30,000 migrants took the same route.
“Border closure and economic contractions due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in irregular migration,” he said.
Santiago also stated that the “Caribbean and extra-regional migrants make the crossing in extremely dangerous conditions and are exposed to risks along their migratory route, particularly in the crossing of the Darien Gap Jungle, on the border between Panama and Colombia.”
The United States has continued to maintain a near-total border closure to those seeking
Mexico and other countries in Central America have also intentionally blocked migrants trying to transit through their territories on the way to the United States.
The Darien Gap jungle is controlled and infested with armed gangs, drug traffickers, and smugglers, who often rob, assault or rape the migrants crossing along the way.
Dozens have been killed this year alone, experts have said. Many of the deaths are due to natural causes, such as heart attacks and falls. But drowning and snake bites are also common, while the majority are assaulted and killed by armed gangs.
This expanse of jungle, known as the Darien Gap sits on 1.42 million acres of land which sits between Panama and Colombia.
Panama officials unanimously declared that in recent years, 20 to 30 bodies on average have been recovered annually, but observers said the death toll this year reflected a surge in migration.
The Darien Gap route has undoubtedly come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks after nearly some 15,000 people, most of them Haitians, huddled under a bridge in south Texas last month, hoping to gain asylum in the United States.
Many left Haiti years ago and had been living in Brazil or Chile, making the journey to the US border with little food, attempting to traverse through the Darien Gap jungle on their way north.
The Biden Administration has faced widespread criticism for deporting thousands of Haitian asylum seekers back to Haiti, which is facing deadly gang violence, political instability, the fallout of a recent earthquake, and the assassination of their President Jovenel Moise at his private residence on July 7, 2021.
According to reliable sources, the United States has sent more than 7,500 people back to Haiti.
A petition filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights justly called on the International body to demand the United States to desist from using the Public Health Directive to immediately expel most asylum seekers who arrive at the border.
Former US envoy to Haiti, who promptly resigned over the Biden Administration’s treatment of Haitian asylum seekers, told US lawmakers that the deportation would make the crisis in the Caribbean nation worse, as more migrants will make the long and dangerous trek simply trying to survive.