The Darién jungle is a land with several owners that does not belong to anyone. And, for many migrants, Crossing it is a true hell in which they put their lives at risk. in order to have the possibility of a better future for themselves and their families.
Is about a territory that connects Panama with Colombia and Central America with South America. It is also one of the most dangerous areas in the region and, therefore, also one of the most difficult to navigate.
In 2022, about 250,000 people will pass through there, that is, about 117,000 more than officially registered during 2021, according to figures from the Government of Panama. The statistics reveal that, of the 2022 figure, some 150,327 were of Venezuelan nationality. In the total there are also Ecuadorians, Cubans, Haitians, Asians and Africans.
From January to August of this year, The number of migrants who have crossed the Darién exceeded 330,000 peopleaccording to the UN, with a fifth of them being minors.
In the path, Many of them lose their lives and entire families end up separated.. Death records are around 36 for the previous year. At least nine would be minors.
The crossing into the thick jungle is done through at least three routes. In Colombia, from Necoclí, Antioquia, to reach Acandí or Capurganá, in the department of Chocó. In that area, some take boats to a town in Panama called Calidonia, and then to the country’s capital. Later they continue their journey, passing through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, to the border with the United States.
Another known route that, according to local sources, is also currently used, It is the one that passes through Carreto in Panama. It is one of the most dangerous and difficult. The migrants leave from Capurganá to Carreto. They cross roads, jungle, rivers and mountains.
Finally, is the route that these days is the most used. In it, migrants arrive to Chocó from Necoclí. From there they are transported by boat to Acandí, later they arrive at a first refuge and then to Las Tecas, the so-called “Door of the Darién”.
Minors in Darien
The passage of the minors through the Darién jungle is dramatic. Children are also migrants and hundreds move in the company of their parents, other relatives or acquaintances. It is a journey that, if it is difficult for adults, it is much more so for the little ones.
They suffer from inclement weather and the rigor of the jungle, in addition to insect bites, humidity, the danger inherent in crossing rivers and mountains, lack of water and little food.
According to UNICEF, “it is alarming that in the first half of 2023 alone, more children and adolescents have crossed the dangerous Darien jungle between Colombia and Panama than during all of last year. In the first six months of this year, more than 40,000 boys, girls and adolescents have already made the dangerous tripe through the Darien Gap.”
They add that “half of these children on the move are under five years old and have specific needs”. During the journey, both minors and their parents face a journey where they can lose their belongings, their documents and their money. Many are left with practically nothing, only what they wear.
In this case, for the United Nations Children’s Fund, “the evolving dynamics of the migration situation in the region requires a comprehensive, cross-border and multidirectional response that ensures the best interests of the child”.
The Fund also reminds that “regardless of the reasons why they left home or their legal situation, Children have the right to be protected at all times“.