More Than 91,000 Migrants Have Crossed Darien Gap on Way to North America This Year

More than 91,300 migrants, mostly Haitians, have trekked through the perilous Darien Gap jungle to Panama from Colombia this year hoping to reach the United States, Canada or Mexico, according to Panama's National Migration Service (SNM). The figure for the first nine months triples the previous record of 30,000 on the same route during all of 2016. 

"Border closures and economic contractions due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in irregular migration,'' said Santiago Paz, International Organization for Migration (IOM) Chief of Mission in Panama. "Caribbean and extra-regional migrants make the crossing in extremely vulnerable conditions and are exposed to risks along their migratory route, particularly in the crossing of the Darien Gap  on the border between Panama and Colombia."  

Between January and September 2021, many of the 56,600 Haitian migrants were accompanied by children born during their migratory journey.  Migrants also arrive from Cuba (12.8K), Venezuela (1.5K) and dozens of countries in Asia and Africa, including Bangladesh, Senegal, Ghana, Uzbekistan, India and Nepal.  

This migration movement slows during the rainy season (between May and July), but this year's figures show an increase despite the weather, which poses extra risks for travellers due to rising rivers. 

Migrants often passed through South American countries where they worked for months or even years. In a survey conducted by IOM among 732 migrants arriving at the Migration Reception Stations (ERM) near the border with Colombia, 43 per cent  said their country of habitual residence was Chile, and 20 per cent said Brazil. Only 14 per cent said they usually reside in Haiti.   

The figures also reveal an increase in the number of migrants of Venezuelan nationality arriving through the Darien route. In 2017, 66 Venezuelans  were registered but between January and September 2021, the number was 1,529.  

There is also evidence of an increase in the number of minors arriving in Panama through the Darien route. While in 2017 children made up 2 per cent of the migratory movement through the Colombia-Panama border, between January and September of this year they already account for 20 per cent.  

"Responding to the needs of migrants transiting irregularly through Panama poses significant challenges mainly related to funding," Paz said.  "In this sense, there is an urgent need to redouble coordination between governments and international cooperation to respond to the humanitarian needs of the population in transit."  

In recent years, the Panamanian government has created a physical and institutional infrastructure to temporarily house the population in transit and attend to the humanitarian needs of this growing migrant population. With technical support from the IOM and other international organizations, Panama has installed two ERMs, where migrants find lodging and food, and where potential cases of COVID-19 are monitored.  

Through technical support to the Government of Panama and its daily presence in the field, IOM has identified needs in the humanitarian assistance provided in the ERMs of Darien, including protection of vulnerable groups, shelter, water and sanitation, and access to health. IOM, along with other UN agencies and international NGOs, is making efforts to complement and improve the humanitarian care provided by the Panamanian government to migrants.  

"The situation faced by irregular migrants in transit in the Latin American and Caribbean region must be addressed from a regional approach and cannot be the responsibility of a single country,'' Paz said. "The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration recommends cooperation among States to respond quickly and coherently to the needs of migrants in vulnerable conditions, and this need for cooperation is especially evident in the Darien."  

For more information, please contact Jorge Gallo at the IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, email, tel: +506 7203 6536. 

Date Publish: 
darién, panama

IOM, USAID to Provide 6,000 Scholarships for Young Salvadorans

Date Publish: 
19 / 11 / 2021

Zacatecoluca - More than 6,000 young Salvadorans will benefit from scholarships covering tuition and monthly fees, transportation subsidies, school supplies, support for skills development, job training, and formal employment possibilities through the Educational Opportunity Scholarships project launched last Wednesday November 17.

These incentives for young people to continue their studies will be channeled through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology within its Gradual Educational Model for Technical and Technological Learning (MEGATEC) framework.

The program's coverage is nationwide. The academic offer includes technological management of cultural heritage, global logistics, electronics, computer engineering technician, computer hardware, tourism management and development, food technician, construction engineering technician, and others.

"Together with IOM, the U.S. Government, through USAID, will provide full scholarships and stipends for transportation and food for thousands of young people to successfully complete their studies at the Megatec centers in Zacatecoluca, Santa Ana, Ilobasco, Sonsonate, Chalatenango, and Morazán. They will obtain the skills and knowledge that will allow them to aspire to better jobs," said Jean Manes, Chargé d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador.

With a total investment of USD 20 million, the implementation of this initiative is projected for the next four years. It seeks to strengthen strategies for sustainable reintegration of returned migrants, prevent risks associated with irregular migration and generate prosperity and hope in the lives of Salvadoran youth through equitable access to higher education options.

"Through education, I have learned to question the issues I am passionate about and to look for solutions," said Samuel Castaneda, a high school student and potential beneficiary of the program.

A study conducted by the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES) in 6 municipalities of San Salvador and published in October 2021 revealed that over 50% of the surveyed population considering to leave their country in the next 12 months reports the search for better opportunities as their primary motivation to migrate.

"This scholarship program is an invaluable opportunity to demonstrate that investing in human development is the best response to prevent irregular migration and the risks inherent to it. Enhancing the skills and competencies of young people, increasing their self-esteem, and providing them with professional tools will allow them to make reasoned decisions in line with their life projects," said Nicola Graviano, IOM Chief of Mission in El Salvador.

The Educational Opportunity Scholarships project was presented las Wednesday November 17 in an event chaired by the Chargé d'Affaires of the United States in El Salvador, Jean Manes; the Chief of Mission of the IOM in El Salvador, Nicola Graviano; the Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), David Gosney; the Director of Planning of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, José Mauricio Pineda, and the rector of ITCA-FEPADE, Elsy Escolar Santodomingo.

For more information please contact José Miguel Gómez at IOM El Salvador, Email:, Tel: +503 7600 1784.