As a massive makeshift encampment of mostly-Haitian illegal immigrants on the Texas border was just cleared out, thousands more are making their way from South America to the US border, crossing the perilous Darien Gap in Panama, according to new images and the Panamanian government.
The Darien Gap is a 66-mile long roadless stretch of jungle and swamp that links Colombia and Panama, and is known as one of the most inhospitable places on earth.
Along with smugglers and drug traffickers, the area is home to a vast array of deadly creatures, from black scorpions, to poisonous snakes like the pit viper, to gargantuan spiders whose bite can cause death in hours.
Along with the threats posed by the lethal critters, people crossing the treacherous terrain must also contend with oppressive levels of heat and humidity, torrential downpours, and a lack of drinking water.
Images from Sunday show a group of migrants wading across a small stream in the jungle, as a mix of men, women and children carrying their belongings, sleeping bags and large bottles of water try to maintain their footing.
In another, migrants follow a waist-high path cut into the muddy soil surrounded by thick vegetation.
Men, some with small children strapped to their chests, lead the way.
The group set out on the five-day trek to the Darien Gap on Sunday near Acandi, Choco Department, Colombia, on their way to Panama, according to reports.
A woman, holding a child to her chest and carrying a plastic water bottle, emerges from the stream and follows a path through lush foliage, in another image.
As many as 4,000 migrants, including Haitians, Cubans and other nationalities, have passed through stations in Darien and Chiriqui, in western Panama, Reuters reported, citing officials with Panama’s security ministry.
Another group of about 16,000 migrants are in Necocli, a beach town in northern Colombia, waiting for boats to take them to the Darien Gap, where smugglers will guide them through the jungle.
Colombia and Panama agreed last month to allow 500 migrants to cross each day, but many are calling for the quota to be increased.
More than 88,000 migrants have entered Panama though the Darien Gap so far this year, Reuters reported, referring to figures from the National Migration Service.
The report said the numbers of migrants entering Panama went from an average of 800 in January to 30,000 in August.
Many Haitians left their home country following a devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed 220,000 people to take jobs in Brazil, Chile, Peru and other South American countries.
But as the jobs dried up, Haitian migrants began the trek north to the US, enticed by President Biden’s more lenient immigration policies.
Thousands of them arrived in Del Rio, Texas, earlier this month and began camping out under the International Bridge.
The encampment was cleared out last Friday.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas admitted during an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that more than 12,000 Haitian migrants had been released into the US and the numbers could increase.
He said roughly 12,400 Haitians are having their asylum claims heard by an immigration judge and another 5,000 are being processed by DHS.
About 3,000 have been detained.
“Approximately, I think it’s about 10,000 or so, 12,000,” Mayorkas responded when asked how many illegal immigrants have already been released.
The number could surpass 5,000 as other cases are processed, he said.
“It could be even higher. The number that are returned could be even higher. What we do is we follow the law as Congress has passed it,” Mayorkas said.
With Post wires