Since 2016 Colombia has focused on Venezuelan migration because approximately 5 million Venezuelans have entered the country. Less is known about the thousands of migrants that arrive in Colombia from Ecuador and the pacific coast to pass the Darien gap, which is a jungle that goes from Colombia to Panama, known as the most dangerous illegal track in Latin America.

Migrants from diverse countries such as Haiti, Bangladesh, and Somalia decide to take this path to afterward arrive in Central America, México, and finally, arrive in the United States. Currently, there is no state protocol or a coordinated strategy between Panama and Colombia to help the thousands of people that go through this zone. Moreover, these migrants are invisible and there is no certainty regarding the number of people that arrive and how many lost their lives in the jungle. 

The current situation of COVID-19 caused the lockdown and closure of frontiers, leaving many migrants stuck on Colombian beaches, specifically in Necoclí. In this small town, many migrants are currently waiting for boats that take them to Panama or at least, a little bit closer to the border. The entrance through the thickly jungled road of the Darien gap gets also difficult because the authorities in Colombia and Panama agreed to limit the mobility and allow the passing of only 650 migrants per day.

Haitian migrants in Necoclí, Colombia, near the border with Panama

According to Panama authorities around 46,000 migrants have crossed the Darien gap this year. Nonetheless, this does not count the people that might have lost their lives during the road. Most of the migrants come from Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela. 

The migrants that take this road feel they don’t have another choice; many have lost their jobs during the pandemic, and they hope to continue the path to the United States. The reality is that many end up dying in the jungle or in the sea. In January of 2021, three bodies of migrants were found in Pinorroa Bay, Colombia, and approximately 21 died during 2019.

The authorities from Colombia and Panama are exploring the possibility of finding humanitarian corridors, but the truth is that they have no clear strategy to respond efficiently to the migrants that arrive daily to Necoclí. This situation isn’t new, it’s been happening for years and the governments from both countries still do not prioritise this situation. 

The author Nadja Drost won the Pulitzer with the article “When can we really rest?” about the turmoil migrants go through trying to cross the Darien Gap. Despite the effort of the international press to show this problem, this situation seems unresolved by national authorities and these migrants remain unprotected. And we are still trying to understand Why are these migrants invisible? Why are local and regional authorities indifferent and inefficient regarding this situation?


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