Drastic increase in number of migrant children making dangerous trek to US-Mexico border

A staggering number of children have traversed the Darien Gap that separates Colombia and Panama in the first four months of this year. According to The Telegraph, the number of children who have crossed the gap has increased eightfold since the beginning of year, with 25,431 children and teens, both accompanied and not accompanied, doing so.

The gap is a jungle terrain, where bands of criminals are constantly passing through. However, it is also an important transit point for those who are attempting to leave their old lives behind in search of something better. The report noted that one in five people who are traversing the gap are children. 

Garry Conille, the Regional Director of UNICEF for the Caribbean and Latin America, said: “Our teams on the ground had never seen such a skyrocketing number of children crossing the Panama jungle on their own or with their parents.”

The landscape of the 60-mile gap is treacherous, with raging rivers and steep ravines that often pose challenges for those attempting to get across. When personnel from The Telegraph visited the area in 2022, it was discovered that there were decomposed corpses by the wayside of those who had attempted to get across, as well as armed bandits and drug traffickers who roamed around the forests. These bandits and traffickers have also been reported to rob and rape those who are passing through.

However, the frequency with which children are making it into Panama through the gap has posed challenges for the country. There are approximately 10 unaccompanied children who arrive daily at the illegal immigrant reception stations in Panama. If the current trend continues, it means that the country could host 100,000 minors by the end of the year, per the report.

Sandie Blanchet, UNICEF representative for Panama, stated: “The increase in the number of children crossing the Darien jungle since the beginning of 2023 is unprecedented. What children go through is often horrifying, and the majority of children who cross the Darien jungle is below the age of five.”

The dangers of the Darien Gap have not stopped people from attempting to cross it, including those who have come from China, Africa, and even the Middle East. The report noted that the uptick in those crossing through the gap could be due to a second wave of migration, with family members attempting to meet up with those who have journeyed ahead of them and already settled in the US.


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