Sexual rape and brutality against migrants are increasing in the Panamanian jungle: Doctors Without Borders

The NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) denounced this Thursday Increase in sexual assault and “brutality” suffered by many migrants who pass through the inhospitable Darién jungle on the border between Colombia and Panama on their way to the United States.

In just one week in February, this NGO’s health teams treated 113 migrants, including nine minors, who were subjected to sexual assault by criminal gangs in Darien, Doctors Without Borders said in a statement. There were 120 cases in all of January.

They threaten them, they attack them, they systematically abuse women sexually, in front of other migrants and even in front of their families and children,” said Luis Eguiluz, head of operations for Médecins Sans Frontières in Colombia and Panama.

“In a recent episode, various migrants described to us in detail how those who refused to cooperate were shot“added Eguiluz, quoted in the statement.

According to the NGO in January On average, gangs rape three women every day and in February the number rose to 16 per day.

“It’s unimaginable. We had already reached very high numbers in December and January and there had been isolated reports of deaths. But now, in the final rounds, the level of brutality is extreme,” said Eguiluz.

In 2023 a Venezuelan immigrant who care about the economic conditions in their country They forced him to cross the Darien and whose name remains hidden for security reasons, he said:

How do you survive five rapes? A snake doesn’t end your lifethe men who are inside, who are raping and killing, are ending your life“, he points out emphatically.

Recording migrants

The Darien Junglea jungle border between Colombia and Panama, 266 km long and covering 575,000 hectares, has become one in recent years Corridor for migrants trying to reach the US from South America.

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Travelers take between three and six days to cross the jungle, where they face many natural dangers as well as criminal gangs who rob migrants or demand payments to accompany them on their route.

In 2023, a record of more than 520,000 people crossed This dangerous route. Some of them 120,000 were minors.

In the first two months of this year, more than 72,000 people crossed the Darién, a number that exceeds the 50,000 in the same period last year. Almost two-thirds are Venezuelans, followed by Haitians, Ecuadorians, Colombians and Chinese.

deviation

It was never possible to complete the Pan-American Route in this area.

In 2022, 62 deaths of people attempting to cross the jungle will be recorded, according to official information. At least 34 died in 2023, but the number could be higher.

The Panamanian government does not know the exact number of migrants killed because of the inaccessibility of the jungle, lack of complaints or the abandonment of corpses, sometimes eaten by animals.

“The level of violence and sexual violence we are seeing in Darién is unusual, I have not seen it in other humanitarian crises,” said Eguiluz, who called on the Panamanian government to redouble its efforts to protect migrants.

“It’s an aberration that’s growing, and what’s worse, no one seems to care. We do not see any major changes in the impunity with which the attackers operate,” he added.

The Panamanian government is trying Deter migrants with messages warning of the danger from Darien.

The large influx of migrants prompted Panamanian authorities, with the support of international organizations, to set up migrant care centers in populated areas of Darién that provide basic services for travelers.

With information from AFP.

ORP

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