Almost 500,000 Migrants Have Crossed the Darien Jungle So Far This Year, Twice As Many as in All of 2022

Migrants cross the Turquesa River, in the Darién Jungle (Panama), in an archive photograph. (EFE/Bienvenido Velasco)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Bogota, December 1, 2023 — Almost 500,000 migrants have crossed the Darién Jungle region on the border between Colombia and Panama, one of the most used and dangerous routes in the journey of these people on their trip to the United States, Médicos Sin Fronteras (MSF) revealed this Thursday.

According to this organization, the number of migrants who have crossed the 60 miles of “wild nature on horseback” of the Darién Gap is about to exceed 500,000 so far in 2023, a figure much higher than that of 248,000 in all of 2022 and 133,000 in 2021.

“The number of migrants who have crossed the jungle is equivalent to more than 11% of Panama’s population. This is an unprecedented crisis to which not enough global or regional attention has been paid,” said the general coordinator of MSF for Colombia and Panama, Luis Eguiluz.

He added that “safe routes have not been guaranteed to migrants, nor sufficient resources for the organizations that serve them.”

According to MSF, in addition to the natural difficulties of crossing the jungle, migrants are also exposed to attacks, robberies, kidnappings and sexual violence; this organization has treated 397 survivors of sexual violence – 107 in October alone – including children.

We are crossing the jungle looking for a better future, not to die. A snake doesn’t end your life; it’s the men who rape and kill you 

“How do you survive five rapes?” asks a Venezuelan woman crying, who told MSF that she left her country for economic reasons.

“We are crossing the jungle looking for a better future, not to die. A snake doesn’t end your life; it’s the men who rape and kill you,” she added.

Ninety-five percent of the victims of sexual violence treated by MSF were women, and those who tried to defend them were attacked and even killed.

“What we have evidenced and heard from them is that those who transit through the Americas are exposed to a situation of extreme vulnerability: hunger, absence of shelter and water sources, excessive charges, disinformation and scams, xenophobia and physical, psychological and sexual violence,” Eguiluz said.

The torture of the migrants, according to Eguiluz, starts long before the migrants reach the Darién jungle, “even if it is there where it becomes evident.”

“From Peru I took a bus to Huaquillas (a city in Ecuador on the border with Peru). There some men took 10 migrants and stole all their money, and the women were undressed. They took the phones too and said that if we talked, they would kill us. They were carrying knives and guns,” says David Fuentes, a Colombian-Venezuelan migrant.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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