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Migrants Resuming Dangerous Journey Through Darien Gap

Migrants gather in Necocli, Colombia, a stopping point for migrants taking boats to Acandi which leads to the Darien Gap, Oct. 13, 2022. The flow of thousands of migrants daily through the migr

Officials in Colombia have reported a resurgence in the number of migrants embarking on the perilous journey across the Darien Gap en route to the United States. After being stranded in Necoclí due to a work stoppage by local boat captains, approximately 3,000 migrants have departed the town since Friday, with an additional 400 individuals awaiting their turn. These migrants are gathering funds to pay for their boat tickets that will take them into the treacherous Darien jungle.

The Darien Gap, a dense and roadless rainforest separating South America from Central America, has become a common yet hazardous route for hundreds of thousands of migrants from various continents seeking to reach the U.S. Last week, transit across the Darien was disrupted as boat companies in Necoclí protested the arrest of two boat captains by Colombia's navy for allegedly transporting migrants in unsafe conditions and contributing to human trafficking.

Following negotiations with government officials, the boat companies resumed their services on Friday, aiming to address the large number of stranded migrants in Necoclí. To enhance oversight, migrants boarding the boats are now required to register on a government app, with further discussions on transportation conditions scheduled for later this week.

Colombia, historically lenient on migrant transit, is facing mounting pressure from U.S. authorities to curb the northward flow of migrants. Last year, over half a million individuals crossed the Darien Gap on foot, with Panama registering most migrants before they continue their journey to the U.S.

Recent data from Panama's Security Minister indicates a 52% increase in migrant crossings in the first two months of 2024 compared to the same period last year. Venezuelans, Haitians, Chinese, and Ecuadorians constitute the majority of migrants crossing the Darien this year, fleeing economic crises and seeking asylum.

Despite its popularity, the Darien Gap remains a hazardous route, with migrants facing risks of drowning, robberies, sexual violence, and tropical diseases. Doctors Without Borders reported treating 233 victims of sexual violence in the Darien Gap during the initial two months of this year, underscoring the dangers faced by migrants on this journey.

Human Rights Watch has highlighted the influence of the Gulf Clan, a drug trafficking group, on the Colombian side of the Darien, profiting from fees paid by migrants to guides and porters facilitating their border crossing into Panama.

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