By Elida Moreno
PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – The number of migrants crossing the treacherous Darien Gap linking Colombia and Panama more than doubled in the first quarter of 2022 compared with the year-earlier period, led by Venezuelans, Panamanian officials said on Tuesday.
In the first three months of the year, 13,425 people crossed the region compared with 5,622 people in the same period of 2021, Panama’s National Migration Service (SNM) said.
The Darien Gap encompasses a dangerous jungle where migrants trekking on foot for days often suffer robbery, violence and sexual abuse while en route to the United States.
More than 31% of the migrants through March this year came from Venezuela, overtaking Haitians, who in previous years represented the nationality most likely to take the Darien route.
The number of Venezuelans almost doubled from all of 2021, SNM said, as Venezuela grapples with an ongoing economic crisis.
After Venezuelans and Haitians, Senegalese and Cubans represented the highest numbers of migrants.
For the full year of 2020, as the pandemic halted travel, the number of people reaching the Darien fell to 8,000. Last year, the number surged to a historic high of 133,000.
(Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Christopher Cushing)