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The Deadly Migratory Routes: The Darién and the Mediterranean Sea

Migration, a phenomenon inherent to human history, has taken a heartbreaking turn in the two routes we will explore below. Focusing on the hell of Darién, a nightmarish virgin jungle that has become the scene of violence and desperation for hundreds of thousands of migrants, and on the deadly route of the Mediterranean Sea, where the search for safety and asylum has led to loss of countless lives.

Darien Migratory Route. Image from El País

El Darién: A Green Hell

The Darién Gap, an extensive 6,000-square-kilometer swath of jungle, is emerging as a deadly challenge for those seeking to reach the United States from South America. Controlled by organized crime, Darién has witnessed a chilling record in 2023: almost half a million migrants have crossed this critical point, facing a total lack of humanitarian care and constant danger.

The Darién jungle not only presents natural obstacles such as rivers, ravines and dangerous animals, but it is also permeated by violence perpetrated by organized crime. Migrant women have told horror stories, talking about sexual assaults, murders and robberies. In 2023, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has documented almost 400 sexual assaults, a figure that only scratches the surface due to the stigma and fear surrounding reporting.

The magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in the Darién is evident in the numbers of migrants crossing it. The National Border Service of Panama registers an exponential increase: 133,000 in 2021, 248,000 in 2022 and, as of November 2023, they already exceed 458,000. The diversity of nationalities, from Venezuelans to Chinese citizens, reflects the breadth of global desperation.

It is estimated that in the last four years, 120 thousand minors crossed the feared jungle between Panama and Colombia. Image: EFE

The only way to cross the Darién is to pay and, even then, the guarantee of safety is scarce. Migrants face mafias in shelters prior to the stoppage, and hiring guides is almost mandatory. Despite this, more than 40,000 minors have crossed the Darien in the first six months of 2023, an increase of 450% since 2022.

Despite media coverage, the Darien crisis continues to be ignored. MSF and UN agencies describe it as a "deepening humanitarian crisis", lacking a serious and international approach. The lack of resources and safe routes aggravates the suffering of migrants.

The Mediterranean Sea: The Deadly Route to Europe

While the Darién unleashes its chaos in America, the Mediterranean Sea becomes the watery grave of those seeking safety in Europe. Since 2015, more than a million people have fled to Europe, facing closed borders, inhumane conditions and dangerous journeys.

Image: BBC World Service

The lack of safe and legal alternatives has led the European Union and local governments to push thousands into dangerous entry routes. Desperation manifests itself in rickety boats and desperate journeys, resulting in more than 28,000 people drowned since 2014.

Organizations like Open Arms seek to raise awareness about the tragedy of the Mediterranean. Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they display on the beaches the representation of more than 2,600 lives lost at sea in 2023, remembering the urgency of protecting fundamental rights.

These deadly migratory routes, whether through the inhospitable Darien or the treacherous Mediterranean Sea, demand an urgent global response. Raising awareness is the first step in challenging indifference and addressing the inhumane conditions that force thousands to risk their lives in search of a safer future. Humanity must come together to provide safe routes, adequate resources and, above all, compassion to those seeking refuge in a world that, until now, has turned its back on them.

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