Get 40% Off
🚀 AI-picked stocks soar in May. PRFT is +55%—in just 16 days! Don’t miss June’s top picks.Unlock full list

African migrants bound for US use Nicaragua to bypass Darien perils

Published 09/26/2023, 03:36 PM
Updated 09/26/2023, 04:21 PM

By Lizbeth Diaz and Jackie Botts

TIJUANA/OAXACA CITY, Mexico (Reuters) - African migrants and asylum seekers heading to the United States are flying into Nicaragua to bypass the Darien Gap, a dangerous jungle isthmus connecting Panama and Colombia, according to migrants interviewed by Reuters and exclusive U.N. data.

A dozen migrants recently arrived in the Mexican northern border city of Tijuana and the southern city of Oaxaca said they had flown into the Central American country, where many African nationalities can obtain a low-cost visa.

The migrants hailed from Mali, Angola, Guinea and Senegal, and almost all said they knew about the dangers of Darien, which can only be traversed on foot.

Several said they had gone to Nicaragua after hearing macabre stories of people who had faced Darien's deadly perils.

"When I started planning my trip I told myself: I don't want to die there," said a 32-year-old migrant from western Mali, who explained he had fled the country due to war and violence.

"I want to live safely," he said from a shelter in Tijuana, claiming to have paid a trafficker more than $10,000. He asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Sitting outside a bus terminal in Oaxaca city, Souleymane, a 29-year-old Senegalese man who asked to be identified by his first name only, said that relatives in New York had paid for his passage to Nicaragua. Souleymane gestured that it had been exorbitantly expensive, though he declined to give the amount.

"The political crisis (in Senegal) scares us," he said.

Several migrants said they found out about the alternate route through social networks and from human traffickers.

Traditionally many people trying to reach the United States have flown into Brazil or other South American countries, but knowledge of this alternate route has spread through word of mouth.

Authorities in Nicaragua did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for information on the issue.


Reuters obtained exclusive access to data from the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration (IOM), scheduled to be published Wednesday in a report, which underlines the scale of the phenomenon.

In a statement to Reuters, the IOM previewed the findings of the report, including that "African and Cuban migrants are increasingly choosing air routes to reach Central American countries, avoiding the Darien jungle."

Between January and July, some 4,100 African migrants crossed Darien, a 65% decrease compared to the same period in 2022, the statement said.

Separately, it also said 19,412 African migrants crossed Honduras - Nicaragua's northern neighbor - in the first seven months of 2023, a 553% increase from the same period in 2022.

Only 524 Cubans were reported in Darien during that period, in contrast to the 17,157 recorded in Honduras.

The data suggest that thousands of African and Cuban migrants have opted for the Nicaragua route in recent months.

Various international organizations such as the U.N. have warned of the risks migrants face crossing Darien. These can range from hunger, injury, animal bites to robbery, violent attacks and sexual assault.

Despite the shift seen among African and Cuban migrants, a record of about 82,000 people last month entered Panama overland from South America, according to the IOM.

Meanwhile, an unprecedented number of migrants have entered Mexico from other continents, as the trek to the U.S. southern border increasingly becomes a global migration route sought by people fleeing violence, economic distress and the growing impacts of climate change in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The number of African migrants registered by Mexican authorities so far this year is already three times as high as during all 2022.

(This story has been refiled to fix formatting errors)

Latest comments

Risk Disclosure: Trading in financial instruments and/or cryptocurrencies involves high risks including the risk of losing some, or all, of your investment amount, and may not be suitable for all investors. Prices of cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and may be affected by external factors such as financial, regulatory or political events. Trading on margin increases the financial risks.
Before deciding to trade in financial instrument or cryptocurrencies you should be fully informed of the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite, and seek professional advice where needed.
Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. The data and prices on the website are not necessarily provided by any market or exchange, but may be provided by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual price at any given market, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Fusion Media and any provider of the data contained in this website will not accept liability for any loss or damage as a result of your trading, or your reliance on the information contained within this website.
It is prohibited to use, store, reproduce, display, modify, transmit or distribute the data contained in this website without the explicit prior written permission of Fusion Media and/or the data provider. All intellectual property rights are reserved by the providers and/or the exchange providing the data contained in this website.
Fusion Media may be compensated by the advertisers that appear on the website, based on your interaction with the advertisements or advertisers.
© 2007-2024 - Fusion Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.