Global Migrants Brave Panama’s Vipers, Bats, Bandits to Reach U.S.

People smugglers take migrants from Southeast Asia on the Cacarica River in Colombia toward the Panamanian border. Carlos Villalon for The Wall Street Journal

This is an article by wildly pro-migrant Wall Street Journal. It is behind a paywall so I am not going to quote the whole thing (you might be able to access it, there might be some free reads, can’t hurt to try).

But the essence is: People are going from the Middle East and elsewhere to South America, then trying to cross through Darien jungles of Panama. All to get to the Mexico-US border.

Excerpt:

METETÍ, Panama—Ahmed Hassan staggered through dense Panamanian jungle, crazy with thirst, his rubber sandals sliding in the mud, fearing he would die thousands of miles from his homeland in Somalia.

“I told my family I would go to the U.S., that was the plan,” said the 26-year-old truck driver, who said he fled late last year when al-Shabaab militants took his village. He flew to Brazil and made a cross-continental bus trip to Colombia.

In March came his biggest test: crossing the Darien Gap that connects South America with Panama and Mr. Hassan’s ultimate goal, the U.S.

“There was no water. There were snakes,” he said in a small holding center in Metetí, north of the jungle, gashes and bites covering his legs under his traditional sarong. “I thought I might die in that jungle”…

The untamed Darien Gap has become a new route for travelers from as near as Cuba and as far as Nepal…

The circuitous Panama route has become more attractive, say migration experts, thanks to the easing of visa and asylum requirements in some South American countries and an unwillingness by some governments on the route to carry out mass deportations…

Panama processed 210 Somalis crossing the Darien this year through March, up from 60 in the year-earlier period…

The Darien is the only section of the Pan American Highway from Alaska to Argentina that has never been completed. The highway ends in the Panamanian hamlet of Yaviza and picks up about 50 miles later in northwestern Colombia. The rain-soaked terrain between is home to hundreds of rare species, including vipers and jaguars, and to bloodsucking bats and mosquitoes that can carry malaria…

“My friend couldn’t walk, he collapsed. I tried to push him to move but he couldn’t,” said Jawed Khan, 42, from Pakistan, who crossed in March. Panamanian border police found his friend and helped him to safety…

BN-IL388_0515pa_M_20150515165008Some migrants skirt the Darien jungle by boat. Mr. Khan, 38, and a group of Cuban migrants arrive at La Miel, Panama, from Colombia in March. Several boatloads of migrants arrive each day, authorities say. Carlos Villalon for The Wall Street Journal

Passage-via-Panama-to-US

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