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Pope Francis Urges Humanitarian Response to Darien Migration Tragedy

A migrant carries a baby in the Darien Province in Panama on Sept. 22, 2023. Hundreds of thousands of migrants have entered Panama through this jungle so far this year. | Credit: Luis Acosta/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis has called for a “humanitarian response” to the tragic reality of mass migration through the Darien Gap, the jungle region between Panama and Colombia that migrants seek to cross with the ultimate goal of reaching the United States.

The pontiff expressed his concern at the end of the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 17. 

“Today I want to remember the thousands of migrants who try to cross the Darien jungle between Colombia and Panama. They are often families with children who venture down dangerous paths, deceived by those who falsely promise them a short and safe route,” he said.

Pope Francis decried the fact that these migrants are “mistreated and robbed” and “not a few lose their lives in that jungle.”

“We need the joint effort of the most directly affected countries and the international community to prevent this tragic reality from passing in silence and together to provide a humanitarian response,” he stated.

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As reported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), citing figures from Migraciones Panamá, up to the first week of December, 500,000 people have crossed this jungle in 2023, “more than double the number of people who crossed in the whole of 2022.”

In its article analyzing the migratory reality in Latin America, MSF warned that “the more people migrating and the less adequate institutional response, the more the humanitarian crisis worsens.”

In the case of minors, the migration outcome manager for UNICEF, Catalina Duarte, told the media outlet Noticias RCN that it is estimated that “about 50,000 children have crossed the Darien.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.