Band Steven Grattan
March 29 (Reuters) – The number of people crossing the Darien Gap, one of the most dangerous and impassable regions in Latin America, has almost tripled compared to the same period last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said on Tuesday. (UNHCR).
The Darien Gap, a 160 km (100 mile) long and 50 km (30 mile) wide stretch of lawless mountainous jungle between Colombia and Panama, is one of the main routes used by migrants and refugees. trying to head north towards the United States.
According to statistics from Panamanian authorities, the number of Venezuelans crossing the Darien Gap in the first two months of 2022, around 2,500 people, almost reached the total for 2021, which saw 2,819 Venezuelans.
The total number of people crossing rose from 2,928 in the first two months of 2021 to 8,456 in the same period of 2022, including 1,367 girls, boys and adolescents, UNHCR said.
“Many of those making the crossing – usually young adults and families – arrive in isolated indigenous communities starving, dehydrated, exhausted and in need of medical attention,” UNHCR said in a statement. He added that migrants must tackle natural hazards as well as criminal groups known for acts of violence, including sexual abuse and theft.
Refugees and migrants of various nationalities have been crossing the Darien Gap for years, but 2021 marked record numbers.
Some 133,000 people made the trip in 2021 – the vast majority from Haiti – including their children born in Chile and Brazil, followed by Cubans, Venezuelans and those from outside Latin America from places like Angola, Bangladesh, Ghana, Uzbekistan and Senegal. The majority were on the move due to the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021 alone, at least 51 people who entered the Darien Gap were reported missing or dead, UNHCR said. He added that while many Venezuelans crossing previously lived in other host countries in South America, an increasing number are now departing directly from Venezuela.
(Reporting by Steven Grattan in Sao Paulo; Editing by William Maclean)
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