The number of people who have crossed the dangerous Darién Strait, on the border between Colombia and Panama, since January has reached 402,300, the Panamanian Ministry of Public Security said in a statement released this Thursday (28).
The figure — close to the 400,000 that, according to UN forecasts, would represent the total number of crossings this year — exceeds by 62% that recorded in the entire 2022, of 248,000. According to the statement, half of the migrants who crossed the area this year were children and babies.
Known as the “jungle of death”, Darién is the gateway to a wide migratory route that extends to the southern border of the United States. From the strait, migrants pass through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.
When announcing the new record for crossings, Panama’s Minister of Public Security, Juan Pino, stated that the local government’s capacity to serve those passing through the country was beyond its limit. “We are making a superhuman effort,” he said.
In September alone, the number of crossings increased by a fifth compared to the previous month, reaching 4,000 per day. Most migrants come from Venezuela, followed by citizens from Haiti, Ecuador and Colombia.
Other nationalities have also attracted attention. This is the case of Afghans, who have emigrated en masse since the Taliban regained power in the nation in August 2021. This week, the Brazilian government announced a change in the humanitarian reception policy for Afghans under the argument that Brazil has consolidated itself as a gateway for those trying to reach the US, many of them via deadly routes like Darién.
Panamanian authorities announced in early September a series of measures to stem the rise in migration, including deporting more people with criminal records and reducing the number of days tourists of certain nationalities can stay in the country.
The measures follow the recommendations of a program launched in April by the Central American nation together with the US and Colombia to deal with migrants in an irregular situation.
The following month, Washington unveiled a migration-related policy that includes increasing the number of deportations and banning migrants from trying to cross the border again for five years. More stringent, it initially managed to reduce the percentage of illegal crossings by about 70%, but the number of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border has increased recently, indicating that its initial deterrent potential is diminishing.
Meanwhile, Costa Rica, another transit country for migrants, declared a state of emergency earlier this week. Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves scheduled a trip to Panama for October 5th and 6th to discuss the migration crisis with his counterpart, Laurentino Cortizo.