Panama sees surge in migrants crossing perilous Darien Gap
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Panama sees surge in migrants crossing perilous Darien Gap

In this May 10, 2019 photo, a migrant woman and her son rest under a wooden house in Peñitas, Darien Province, Panama. According to the National Border Service of Panama, 7,316 migrants have come through the Darien Gap so far this year. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

PENITAS, Panama — Panamanian authorities are struggling to contend with a spike in the number of migrants risking the journey through what’s known as the Darien Gap, one of the most dangerous stretches of the migratory route toward the U.S.

It’s the biggest migratory crisis Panama has faced since 2015-2016, when about 60,000 people crossed the Gap. Officials say 7,316 migrants have crossed so far this year, on pace to well exceed the 9,678 who made the passage last year and potentially rival 2015-2016.

In interviews, the migrants say they’re fleeing poverty, misery, discrimination, political conflicts, war and extremist violence.

Most in the surge are migrants from Haiti or Cuba, with smaller numbers coming from African nations such as Cameroon and Congo, plus the South Asian countries India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Juan Zamorano, The Associated Press

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