Around 60,000 minors to cross the Darien Gap this year, U.N. claims
The U.N. estimates that more than 300,000 migrants will have crossed the jungle linking Panama and Colombia by the end of the year, 60,000 of which are thought to be minors
February 20, 2023 5:56am
Updated: February 20, 2023 7:44pm
The United Nations said on Friday that it is expecting a surge in migrants crossing the Darien jungle this year to reach the United States, including an unprecedented number of children.
The U.N. estimates that more than 300,000 migrants will have crossed the jungle linking Panama and Colombia by the end of the year, 60,000 of which are thought to be minors, said Diana Romero, an emergency protection specialist at the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
"At least 20% (of people using the route) will be children and adolescents," Romero told Reuters, a significant increase compared to 2022 when 40,438 minors passed through the 266-kilometer-long natural border between Panama and Colombia.
Last year, a record-breaking number of migrants crossed the Darien Gap, reaching 248,000 migrants, prompting a humanitarian crisis. according to official figures from Panama.
So far in 2023, 31,000 migrants have crossed the thick jungle, almost the same number as in the first 5 months of 2022 33, according to Panama’s National Migration Service. In January alone, 4,800 minors reportedly crossed the straight, seven times more than in the same period in 2022.
According to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 36 migrants died in 2022 while crossing the Darien Gap, where travelers face the dangers such as animals, strong river currents, and ravines, as well as the presence of organized crime.