I did not think I was alive at this time, says migrant who has crossed the Darien jungle 3:38
(CNN Spanish) -- The Darien jungle is a land with several owners that does not belong to anyone. And, for many migrants, crossing it is a real hell in which they put their lives at risk in order to have the possibility of a better future for themselves and their families.
It is 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, some 250,000 people passed through there, that is, about 117,000 more than officially registered during 2021, according to figures from the Government of Panama.
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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 Darien exceeded 330,000 people, according to the UN. One fifth of them are minors.
Along the way, many of them lose their lives and entire families end up separated.
Death records hover around 36 for the previous year. At least nine would be minors.
The above is only what the Colombian authorities gathered in Acandí have been able to establish and verify in the middle of the thick jungle, complicated accesses and presence of different actors.
Migrants crossing the Darien jungle.
Routes to the Darién
The crossing to the jungle is done by at least three routes, according to the governor of Chocó.
In Colombia, from Necoclí, Antioquia, to reach Acandí or Capurganá, in the department of Chocó. In that area some take boats to a corregimiento of Panama called Calidonia, and then to the capital of the country. Later they continue their journey, passing through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, to the border with the USA.
Another well-known route that, according to local sources in Chocó, is also currently used, is the one that passes through Carreto, in Panama.
It is one of the most dangerous and difficult. Migrants leave from Capurganá to Carreto. They cross roads, jungle, rivers and mountains.
Finally, there is the one that these days is the most used. In it, migrants arrive to Chocó from Necoclí. From there they are transported in boats to Acandí, later they arrive at a first refuge and then at Las Tecas, the so-called "Puerta del Darién".
Migrants tell what it's like to cross the Darien jungle 6:09
Children in the Darién
The passage of minors through the Darien jungle is dramatic. Minors are also migrants and move by the hundreds in the company of their parents, other relatives or acquaintances.
It is a journey that, if for adults it is difficult, for the little ones it is much more so.
They suffer from the inclemency of the climate and the rigor of the thick 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 Darién jungle between Colombia and Panama than during the whole of last year. In the first six months of this year, more than 40,000 children and adolescents have already made the dangerous journey through the Darien Gap."
They add that "half of these children on the move are under five years old and have specific needs."
On the journey, both children and their parents face a journey where they can lose their belongings, their documents and their money. Many are left with practically nothing, only with what they are wearing.
More than 330,000 migrants have crossed the Darien in 2023.
In this case, for the United Nations Children's Fund, "the evolving dynamics of the migration situation in the region require a comprehensive, cross-border and multidirectional response that ensures the best interests of the child."
The Fund also recalls that "regardless of the reasons why they left home or their legal status, children have the right to be protected at all times."