PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – The United Nations on Wednesday called on countries to join efforts to contain the record-high traffic of U.S.-bound migrants and refugees crossing the treacherous jungle region linking Panama and Colombia, known as the Darien Gap.
Official data shows 248,901 people crossed the dangerous stretch between January and July, surpassing the record high seen for all of 2022.
The “dramatic” numbers show a need for joint efforts to address the root causes of forced displacement and irregular migration, the UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a statement.
Expanding routes to ensure people can obtain regular immigration status is also necessary, it added.
“The perilous journey through the Darien jungle is not only a testament to the desperation and determination of those seeking a better life, but a grim reminder of the urgency of updating our migration systems,” said IOM Director Michele Klein Solomon.
Migrants crossing the Darien Gap are mostly from Venezuela, while Haitians and Ecuadorians make up the next two largest groups.
Crossings through the jungle are expected to surpass 400,000 this year, according to the UN, well up from nearly 250,000 in 2022.
(Reporting by Elida Moreno. Editing by Gerry Doyle)