Images of the US border guard catching up with illegal Haitian immigrants on horseback have drawn global attention to the overcrowding of thousands of people from Haiti in a small town in Texas just across the Rio Grande from Mexico. But on their way north, the route of immigrants they want to reach USA departing from South America, it finds another point of agglomeration and humanitarian emergency: the Darien pass.
What is known as the “Darién Gap” is the particularly difficult forest to cross that exists between Colombia and Panama. At this stage, some 19,000 immigrants are stranded at the moment, most of them Haitians. Darién works as a sensor that anticipates the
crisis on the southern border of the United States affecting immigrants arriving by land from beyond Central America. This is the case of Haitians, and also of Cubans.
So far in 2021, some 70,000 people with the purpose of continuing to the US, according to figures from the International Federation of the Red Cross. The avalanche has accelerated in recent months: 49,751 arrived between June and August, this last month being the one with the highest influx, with 25,361 immigrants, according to the Panamanian authorities.
Of those immigrants who arrived in the last three months, 35,038 were Haitian nationals (70.4%), mostly from Chile and of BrazilAlthough their number should be greater, since the Panamanian guard also counted another 6,000 immigrants from those other two South American countries, who in many cases had been born in Haiti. This acceleration in the volume of immigration in transit through Darien indicates that the pressure on the southern US border from Haitians will continue.
The second national group of immigrants counted by Panama are Cubans, made up of 7,359 people in the last quarter (14.8%). This flow is also noteworthy corresponds to the increase in the number of Cubans who, later on their journey north, then try to enter the US illegally. In the first eight months of the US fiscal year 2021, around 22,000 Cubans were intercepted in its attempt to penetrate US territory This is the highest number since the Obama Administration eliminated the “dry feet, wet feet” policy, which granted asylum to those arriving by sea; Its end led to a wave of Cubans who sought to enter the United States by land, traveling first to a South American country and then trying to follow the routes of the migratory mafias.
The new wave, mainly of Haitians, driven by the new hardships in their country and the end of easy visas in Chile, and also of those in Cuba who especially feel the difficulties derived from the current economic crisis, has made a real record. in the number of non-Mexicans or Central Americans who try to enter the United States illegally through its southern border. Only in August there were 61,484 people, according to the US Border Protection Office, when in previous years in that same month there had only been between 3,500 and 4,500 apprehensions. This is a volume far below the apprehensions of natural persons from Mexico or the countries of the Central American Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador), but it is also an outstanding phenomenon in itself.
Arrival by sea alert
The recent police operations in Texas and the repatriation to Haiti of thousands of Haitians carried out by the Biden Administration from the Rio Grande border, makes the US authorities fear that those who want to leave Haiti for the United States will increase their attempts. of illegal entry by sea. The Department of the Interior has circulated the notice of an alert from the intelligence services that indicates that since May the apprehensions of illegal Haitian immigrants reaching the shores of Florida and of Puerto Rico. They come to this island from the Dominican Republic, a country where, in turn, there is great Haitian immigration.
On the other hand, Uruguay has just dismantled a group dedicated to facilitating the travel of Cubans to Guyana, where a visa is not required, and from there, through Brazil, they could enter Uruguay (where in 2019 they became the first group immigrants, ahead of Venezuelans) or were heading to Darien to follow the route to the US, according to InsightCrime.
Migratory pressure in Darien is forcing the Colombian authorities to facilitate transit to Panama. Crossing the 575,000 hectares of jungle, in marches that can last twelve days, poses a great risk for immigrants. In addition to the intricate forest mass, slopes and rivers are robberies and rapes carried out by gangs. For this reason, in collaboration with Panama, Colombia is helping the sea crossing between the two shores of the mouth of the Gulf of Urabá, between the Colombian populations of Necoclí and Acandí, so that the journey through Darién is as short as possible. The purpose is to move towards “a safe and controlled pace.”
The two countries agreed in August to raise to 650 the number of daily immigrants they would allow to cross the border, to evacuate the thousands of people who are arriving. This influx has been pointed out by Doctors Without Borders, an organization that emphasizes that “the crisis of the pandemic in South America is pushing thousands of immigrants to cross the Darien.” MSF warns about the humanitarian emergency posed by these human concentrations in the Darien bottleneck.