No menu items!
61.2 F
San Jose
Monday, April 22, 2024

Panama Faces Migrant Crisis as Ship Carrying 25 Capsizes near Darien

A vessel carrying migrants capsized this Wednesday on the Caribbean coast of Panama, off the inhospitable Darien jungle, leaving an undetermined number of dead.

The shipwreck occurred in the early hours near Carreto Bay, an isolated settlement on the Atlantic coast of the Darien in an area inhabited by the Guna Yala ethnic group, said the National Border Service (Senafront, border police).

“Today (Wednesday) in the early hours, information was received about the discovery of lifeless migrant bodies due to immersion,” Senafront indicated in a statement, without specifying the number of victims, adding that search patrols were sent to the area of the shipwreck.

The Panamanian channel TVN indicated on the network X that “unofficially it was known that about 25 people were traveling in the vessel, of which 4 have been found dead and about 14 remain on solid ground,” but this version has not been confirmed by the authorities.

“We do not have information about survivors at the moment nor do we have nationality, they are right now in the operation,” a Senafront spokesperson told AFP.

“We also do not have the certainty of knowing how many were on that vessel, because it is an illegal process, human trafficking, which is a crime,” she added.

Transit country

“A vessel entered national territory capsizing due to bad weather,” said Commissioner Rubén Moreno, head of the second Caribbean brigade of Senafront, at the site of the shipwreck.

“There are fatal victims, as soon as information is compiled we will make it known to you,” Moreno added in a video sent to the media by Senafront.

Panama is a transit country for thousands of migrants from South America, mainly Venezuelans, heading to the United States. The vast majority enter the country by crossing the inhospitable Darien jungle on foot from Colombia, to then continue their journey through the rest of Central America and Mexico.

“Search patrols have been deployed and the corresponding coordination is being carried out with the public ministry (prosecutor’s office) and migration authorities to recover the bodies, rescue survivors, and pursue the traffickers” of people who were crewing the vessel, said Senafront, without specifying where the ship came from.

It added that the area of the shipwreck, near the border with Colombia, “is very complex for navigation due to the strong waves produced by currents and winds.”

A record of more than half a million migrants entered Panama in 2023 through the Darien jungle, including about 120,000 minors, according to official Panamanian figures.

Migrants take between three and six days to walk across the natural border between Colombia and Panama, 266 km in length and 575,000 hectares in area, where they face natural dangers but also criminal gangs.

Last November, the organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it had attended to more than 400 cases of migrants who were victims of rape in the jungle, 97% of them women, some of them girls.

2023 closed with 520,085 migrants arriving in Panama after crossing the Darien, according to data from the Panamanian Ministry of Security.

At the top of the list were 328,667 Venezuelans, followed by 57,222 Ecuadorians, 46,558 Haitians, and 25,344 from China, according to the ministry.

A year ago, 40 migrants died in Panama and about twenty were injured after the bus transporting them from the Darien to the border with Costa Rica went off the route. The Panamanian driver also died.

Latest Articles

Popular Reads