Panama’s migration authority released data about migrants passing overland through the Darién Gap, a treacherous jungle region straddling Colombia and Panama, during October. This lawless area has seen a record amount of migration this year: over 211,000 people in 10 months.
On October 12, the U.S. and Mexican governments announced that they would cooperate in using the Title 42 “pandemic authority” to expel Venezuelan citizens across the U.S.-Mexico land border into Mexico. One might have expected this change—the elimination of Venezuelans’ right to ask for asylum in the United States—to result in a decline in northbound migration through the Darién.
It did not:
The number of migrants from Venezuela did begin to level off: Panama registered 40,593 Venezuelans emerging from the Darién jungles in October, just 6 percent more than in September (38,399). The overwhelming majority probably came through before the October 12 Title 42 policy change kicked in.
But the number of migrants from elsewhere in the world virtually doubled from September to October, increasing 96% (9,805 to 19,180). The most rapid growth among countries whose citizens were encountered over 100 times in the Darién in October occurred with citizens of Ecuador (+227% in one month), Afghanistan (+206%), China (+101%), Pakistan (+73%), Brazil (+73%), and India (+72%).
Overall, because of the growth in non-Venezuelan migration, total migration through the Darién Gap increased 24 percent from September to October.
To cross the Darién Gap, migrants walk a dangerous, roughly 70-mile trail through dense jungle, with almost no government presence. They are routinely preyed on by criminals who rob, assault, rape, or even kill them. Many others perish of river drownings, disease, or venomous animals. Two recent photo-filled articles by New York Times correspondent Julie Turkewitz and photojournalist Federico Ríos—one published today—illustrate the misery and danger of a journey taken by an average of 2,000 people per day last month—an until-recently unthinkable total.