Thousands of Central American children risking passage through Darien Gap to U.S.

Once a favored passage for migrants fleeing Central America, the Darien Gap, which runs through the Atlantic at a muddy, 12-mile length between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is quickly becoming a perilous route…

Thousands of Central American children risking passage through Darien Gap to U.S.

Once a favored passage for migrants fleeing Central America, the Darien Gap, which runs through the Atlantic at a muddy, 12-mile length between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is quickly becoming a perilous route to the United States. According to figures released on Wednesday by the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children — mostly from Central America — have crossed the gorge by foot this year, a total more than double the amount recorded in 2017.

The gorge, which was popularized in the Mexican drama Narcos, is known to many as the “Gateway to Hell.” Since 2015, the number of unaccompanied minors has spiked, and the gorge now forms the biggest route to the northern United States for children trying to enter the U.S.

In recent years, the government of the Dominican Republic has come under increasing pressure to tighten border controls, which rely on vigilantes often falsely portraying themselves as protectors of children, and to launch a public-awareness campaign warning the public of the perilous conditions migrants face. The absence of U.S. border security in the gorge and other parts of the Eastern Caribbean has contributed to the descent of those trying to cross in the gorge.

UNICEF has said the agency is mounting a two-year initiative to help efforts to rescue migrants in the Darien Gap. Earlier this year, the U.S. Treasury Department launched a similar effort with a $5 million emergency humanitarian response to help those in the region. Last month, a bipartisan group of seven senators urged the government to ramp up support for migrants, pointing to the horror of images from the Darien Gap, including a 3-year-old Honduran child dying in the gorge after being abandoned by his mother and other mothers.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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