Jungle in usa: Hidden treasures: America’s rainforests | The Wilderness Society
Hidden treasures: America’s rainforests | The Wilderness Society
Contrary to what you might assume, you don’t have to travel to another country to see an authentic rainforest. Check out these rainforests right here in the U.S.
If you are like most Americans, the word “rainforest” probably conjures up images of the Congo or Amazon—teeming jungles far from home. However, we have several rainforests right here in the United States, including one of the largest in the world, and they are pretty amazing in their own right.
Though the term is not well-defined, rainforests are vegetated areas that are mostly covered with trees and (obviously) receive lots of precipitation—generally at least 75 inches of rain per year. They are known for harboring a great diversity of plant and animal life, despite the fact that many contain relatively “poor” soil (most of the nutrients in tropical rainforests tend to be quickly sucked up by abundant and specially adapted plantlife; temperate rainforests fare better in this respect).
But whatever defines rainforests specifically, nature-lovers are fascinated by their dense, green scenery and the myriad life that inhabits it.
Tongass National Forest, Alaska
Tongass National Forest (Alaska)
The massive Tongass National Forest, in southeast Alaska, is the nation’s largest rainforest by a long shot—in fact, it is the largest national forest, period, covering some 16.9 million acres and spanning much of the famous “Inside Passage” that includes Glacier Bay National Park.
Mostly made up of Sitka spruce, western hemlock and western red cedar, Tongass National Forest accounts for nearly one-third of all the old-growth temperate rainforest left on earth, an unusually rich habitat type. About 5.7 million acres of the forest is protected as wilderness, including habitat for grizzly bears, moose, river otters, harbor seals, wolves and much more. The waterways of Tongass National Forest produce a huge numbers of pink, sockeye, coho and king salmon that help sustain local fishing communities.
Sadly, Tongass National Forest is one of America’s most exploited forests, with decades of forestry clearcut scars to prove it. The Wilderness Society has engaged in efforts to protect the forest from excessive logging and help local communities transition to sustainable second-growth timber harvesting.
Michael Matti, flickr
Hoh Rainforest (Olympic National Park-Washington)
Olympic National Park is a famously diverse gem, including rocky beaches, subalpine forests and wildflower-filled meadows. The vast majority of the park is federally protected as wilderness; Olympic Wilderness—the largest in the state—contains 48 miles of beautiful Pacific coastline. However, Olympic National Park is best-known for its cool green old-growth trees, which provide habitat and shelter to wildlife including the largest unmanaged herd of Roosevelt elk in the Pacific Northwest.
Thanks to the region’s notorious weather, Olympic National Park’s rainforests—in the Hoh, Quinault, Queets and Bogachiel valleys—live up to their name, receiving as much as 14 feet of precipitation per year. Sitka spruce, western hemlock and other conifers are the dominant trees, as in many other temperate rainforests, but the ferns, mosses and other epiphytes growing on their dank trunks and branches provide more of a traditional jungle atmosphere.
Olympic National Park contains some of the best hiking anywhere in the nation. Another great reason to visit: Hoh Rainforest, the most famous rainforest in the lower 48 states, has recently gained attention as perhaps “the quietest place in the U.S.”—the perfect remedy to noisy modern life.
C Watts, flickr
Chugach National Forest (Alaska)
While Chugach National Forest is only one-third as large as Tongass National Forest, it is still one of the biggest national forests in the country (almost the size of New Hampshire). Despite lying only about 500 miles south of the Arctic Circle, Chugach National Forest encompasses a variety of vibrant, living landscapes including brilliant blue glaciers, wetlands and, naturally, forests. The latter are chiefly made up of mighty Sitka spruce and mountain and western hemlock, providing habitat for moose, bald eagles and other wildlife. Rivers in Chugach National Forest are major salmon producers as well.
Stretching from Prince William Sound to Kenai Peninsula, Chugach National Forest also boasts great cultural significance. Indigenous tribes trace their connection to the land back thousands of years, and Chugach Eskimo, Eyak Indians, Kenaitze and other Athabascan Indian groups still call it home. The forest reserve that was eventually designated as Chugach National Forest by President Theodore Roosevelt was one of the first of its kind in this country, and the forest is part of the Iditarod National Historic Trail, a cherished Alaskan tradition. In 2015, Chugach National Forest even provided the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree.
Thomas Shahan, flickr
El Yunque National Forest (Puerto Rico)
While we do have rainforests in the U.S. , almost all of them are temperate. The only tropical rainforest managed by the U.S. Forest Service is El Yunque National Forest in northern Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the U.S., and Puerto Ricans are American citizens). Here, you’ll see palms, dwarf broadleaf trees and colorful orchids instead of spruce, and many wildlife species you won’t find anywhere in the contiguous U.S, such as rare fruit bats, small tree frogs called coquí and the endangered Puerto Rican amazon (a type of parrot).
El Yunque National Forest was first protected as a federal forest reserve more than 110 years ago, and it is now a very popular spot for tourists, drawing about 1.2 million visitors each year. The scenery is tremendous, from the so-called “dwarf forest,” where diminutive trees blanket the mist-shrouded mountain slopes; to cool waterfalls; to throngs of brilliant tropical birds (per local legend, you can even occasionally spot U.F.O.s overhead).
The Most Beautiful Rainforests in the United States
© Lisa Fasol / Culture Trip
9 September 2017
When you hear about visiting a rainforest, the Congo and Indonesia are more likely to come to mind than California and Alaska. But dive deep into the ecology of the United States, and you’ll find that the country actually has rainforests aplenty, primarily spread out along the west coast, but in true American fashion, stretching also from sea to shining sea.
Nestled along the coast of the Big Island in Hawaii, the Hamakua Coast rainforest is filled with incredible waterfalls and lush vegitation. A bonus is that while you trek through the rainforest, you’ll be flanked by two volcanos, Mauna Kea and Kohala.
Rainforest I | © jar/Flickr
Occupying the southern Appalachian mountains and stretching from southern Virginia through North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, the Appalachian temperate rainforest receives over 60 inches of rain per year.
Cherokee National Forest, in the Appalachian Rainforest | ©
Clocking in at 17 million acres, Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is the largest forest in the United States, and most of its territory is occupied by temperate rainforest. It is home to many endangered species of plants and animals, and includes fjords and glaciers along with an archipelago and a border with Canada.
Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest, formerly known as the Caribbean National Forest, is the only tropical rainforest in the United States. The forest records well over 200 inches of rain annually, and is home not only to an incredible array of biodiversity, but also to the famous Taino petroglyphs – carvings and etchings from indigenous tribes in the sides of boulders in the forest.
El Yunque National Forest I | © Jeff Gunn/Flickr
Located on the Olympic Peninsula in western Washington State, the Hoh Rainforest is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the United States. The park is now protected from commercial exploitation, but for much of the 20th century, the forest was heavily logged. And looking up at the massive trees in awe, it is easy to understand why the trees were so heavily prized.
Chugach National Forest
A waterfall in Chugach National Forest | © Frank Kovalcheck/Flickr
Known as a sub-polar rainforest, Alaska’s Chugach National Forest contains something unique for a rainforest: a bald eagle population larger than that of all the contiguous 48 states combined. The rainforest has been home to Russian fur-trappers in the past, and was also the site of a gold rush in the late 19th century.
Mount Hood Wilderness
While most of Mount Hood in Oregon is full of pine trees and snow, a temperate Douglas-fir rainforest slopes along the west side of Mount Hood. At springtime, absolutely everything is covered in a breathtaking thick coat of moss after the rains.
Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park | © jason jenkins/Flickr
Redwood National Park in northern California is an old-growth temperate rainforest with some of the most jaw-dropping trees you’ll ever see. The park is dominated by the tallest trees in the world and, true to rainforest form, is foggy, damp, and rainy more days than not.
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90,000 Deadly jungle en route to America 90,001 90,002 About 90,000 people crossed the Darien Gap on their way to the US this year. This is the jungle between Colombia and Panama, which is considered one of the most dangerous routes for migrants in the world. Not everyone makes it out alive.
Vikendi Romain got lucky this morning. A Haitian in a gray T-shirt stands in the port of Necocli, a village in northern Colombia, with a smile on his face. The 31-year-old Haitian did it — managed to get hold of one of the Uraba Bay crossing tickets — a piece of paper with his name and the date: October 15, 2021. This, according to Romain, is his ticket to a new life in the United States.
Behind him, thousands of people crowd around the barrier. Families with small children, pregnant women. They sleep and eat right there, in line. Mothers breastfeed their children. The security forces are brandishing batons, shouting «get out» and trying to push people back. Like Romain, almost all of them are from Haiti. Before buying a ticket, Romain also stood in line for several days. They all have the same dream.
Women queue up at the ticket office in Necocli, Colombia. They must cross Uraba Bay before embarking on the perilous jungle trek. Photo: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
«I want to start over,» says Romain. The auto mechanic is confident that his skills are needed in the United States. He came here with his wife and three-month-old daughter Kasumi.
Three days earlier, the US government announced that it was increasing the number of deportation flights to Haiti. However, Romain heard nothing of this development. At the moment, very few of the people here suspect that they will most likely never make it to the United States.
The most dangerous part of the journey for Romain and his little family is ahead. Immediately after crossing the Uraba Bay, they will have to enter the jungle, the Darien rainforest, which connects Colombia and Panama. They have a six-day hiking trip through a dangerous forest, where it is easy to get lost. Where some die of exhaustion and are left lying in the jungle, surrounded by raging rivers, poisonous snakes and wild cougars.
When engineers built the Panamericana, the highway from Argentina to Alaska, in the 1930s, they left this stretch unattended. The rainforest, with its mountains and swamps, and dense vegetation, was simply too inaccessible. The result was a gap about 100 kilometers long. Darien gap, space not subject to any laws.
Since time immemorial, nature has been killing people like flies here, but people are the most dangerous of the animals in Darien, because this route is also used to transport drugs. On the Colombian side of the border, the jungle is controlled by the infamous del Golfo clan, who are also involved in human smuggling and organ trafficking. And on the Panamanian side, families are attacked by armed gangs, robbed, raped and killed.
Previously, several thousand migrants, mostly adults, passed through this forest every year. This year, by the beginning of October, about 90,000 people tried to pass through it, many of them families with small children. Stranded financially by the economic impact of the pandemic, looking for a better future, and likely driven by hopes of US President Joe Biden’s looser immigration policies, they have been eager to cross this deadly lane. It is not known how many of them died.
Vikendi Romain waits with his wife and daughter Kasumi for a boat to leave through Uraba Bay. Photo: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
«I know it’s dangerous,» says Romain. “But I always think positively.”
Optimism, according to him, served him well in life. Five years ago, he emigrated to Chile in search of work and got a job in a car garage. His wife found work folding paper bags in a factory. They were often able to send $200 a month to Romain’s mother’s home in Haiti. They had a residence permit, a rented apartment, a bank account. His daughter, born in Chile, is a citizen of that country. «Our life was good,» says Romain as the crowd behind him starts arguing at the ticket window.
Lajas Blancas, Darien, Panama
Where this green hell ends, that is, on the other side of the jungle, in Panama, in a tent surrounded by mud from a recent downpour, sits a family from Venezuela. Camp Lajas Blancas is a kind of reception center for those coming out of the jungle, a place that can be reached after a 2.5 hour boat ride.
The Venezuelan family has been here for several weeks. When they entered the Darien Gap, there were 17 of them. When the jungle finally spat them out on the other side, there were 14 left.
On their way through the rainforest, they had to cross a river with a strong current. “We joined hands, made a chain,” says 45-year-old Rosemary Gonzalez. Her husband carried their youngest 4-year-old son on his shoulders. But the chain broke, the husband lost his balance, and the water carried him and his son along with his 6-year-old cousin.
«It happened right next to me,» Gonzalez says, «but I couldn’t do anything.» Her face is contorted in pain. Later they found her son’s body on the river bank — they covered him with a blanket and crushed him with stones.
Twice the family was attacked and robbed in the forest by armed men, they put a gun to the head of a one-year-old baby, threatening to shoot her. The family had no money, so the men took all the phones, food, and even baby diapers. They took Rosemary Gonzalez’s lawyer ring, which she received at the university after graduating from law school.
She walks hunched over, her shoulders stretched forward, as if her thin body is being squeezed by an invisible weight. She hadn’t eaten much since that day in the jungle. When someone hands out packets of French fries and breaded pork at the camp, she doesn’t even look, just makes a dismissive gesture with her hand.
Rosemary Gonzalez lost her youngest son and husband in the river. Photo: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
The family fled Venezuela five years ago. Husband Gonzalez supported the Venezuelan opposition, and at one of the demonstrations his leg was broken. They worked as tourist guides in Colombia until the pandemic hit. Then they lost their jobs. Their two sons, who still live in Bogotá and work part-time as cleaners, cannot send them money, so they are still here in this camp, in need of money for further travel. And, of course, because Gonzalez is still hoping to find her husband’s body. They were married for 20 years. Eight bodies have been found in recent days.
“Walking through this forest is the scariest thing you can do,” she says. -I did not know». She looks at a photograph of her youngest son, a smiling little boy whom she calls «my baby.»
Lajas Blancas is a camp for separated families, a place where people stare blankly into the distance. A small group of Haitians say they are still waiting for a couple of their group members who were likely raped and could no longer walk fast. But it’s been too long. And in the forest, time works against you.
A man walks quickly along the beach, a gold chain dangling from his neck, to which his 11-month-old daughter’s pink teether is attached. At his request, his name in the article has been changed to Daniel Peterson. He is 27 years old and has only enough money for one night. “I don’t want to sleep on the beach with my family,” he says, and looks around. The small bay is dotted with small tents and awnings made of plastic tarps. Some parents wash their children in salt water. Many cough. The little girl is throwing up on the sand.
Nearly all garages and living rooms in Necocli are rented out. The city’s population used to be around 35,000 but has recently increased by another 20,000 refugees. For many villagers, this is the work of a lifetime. For migrants, this is a trap. Those who run out of money end up on the beach. Venezuelans gathered in one section, they are the poorest. There is a pot of swollen white spaghetti on the fire. «That’s all,» says the young man. There is not a single non-governmental organization distributing food or water in this area. “Where is the UN?” he asks. They often have to beg for food to eat and sometimes the Haitians give them something.
Peterson, wearing a T-shirt to complement his dreadlocks, has sold his car to pay for the trip and has already spent $5,000 to travel from Chile to here, and $1,100 of that to Necocli. The Haitian now lives with his family in a small, windowless garage under a corrugated iron roof, where his wife has to lie with her child in the sweltering heat. The rent is $7 per night per person. His problem: there are three weeks left until the departure date.
He came up with a kind of business model to take care of his family. He queues up for ship tickets on behalf of the new arrivals and gets paid for it. If this is not enough, his brother, who works in a hospital in the Bavarian city of Rosenheim, will have to send him money.
“In the US, you make $12 an hour, not a day,” says Peterson. He says that President Biden is a friendly man and that Haitians are welcome there from the moment they set foot on American soil. This story is widely shared on social media and WhatsApp groups. And it’s true, families from Haiti had a good chance of staying in the country. Until recently, while there were too many of them.
It is on this day that photographs begin to circulate on the Internet of Texas border guards chasing Haitians through the Rio Grande on horses with whips.
Peterson’s mother calls from Haiti and begs him to return to Chile, where he went from bakery assistant to cashier.
A Haitian lives with his wife on the beach under a plastic tarp. The family cooks on a small fire and bathes in salt water. Photo: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
Peterson begins to question his plan. “Actually, I don’t feel like going any further,” he says. But he is the leader of a group of 28 people, his friends, who left Chile together. Most of them don’t want to go back, he says, and they’ve invested a lot of money on the trip. These investments are growing every day. “I don’t want to leave them now,” he says.
And his wife also wants to continue. The 31-year-old, who asked not to be named, explains with a smile that almost all of her relatives live in the US. She says she misses Haiti and that in the US she will be closer to her homeland. Perhaps, she says, she can even visit her sometimes. “I asked God before we left. And he told me that I could go through the forest, nothing would happen to me.” Her husband looks at her and says nothing. They have been a couple since he was 17 years old and was working as a DJ. He wanted to study law in Port-au-Prince. His mother wanted him to emigrate and earn money.
Peterson strokes the belly of his daughter, who is lying on his forearm. He called a meeting for that evening to discuss the situation with everyone.
Bajo Chiquito, Darien, Panama
A woman lies on her back in the water, her torso is naked and she cannot raise her head. She constantly rolls to the side, her eyes close. An elderly woman holds it above the water. And they keep coming, emerging from the jungle with torn legs and torn souls. A young man in slippers appears. Another woman drags herself over an embankment into the village of Bajo Chiquito, home to several hundred indigenous people and overrun by twice as many migrants every day. Garbage is scattered everywhere, the ground is a sticky, dirty mess in which chickens dig. The smell of urine is in the air.
A Haitian woman sits on the ground and begins to cry. She talks about the numerous corpses she saw in the forest. Perhaps there were 20 of them. In the water, along the trail, in tents, half-decomposed mothers with children. According to her, a woman from her group and her child were also left behind. “Why did I survive and others didn’t,” she pleads. «I’m no better than them!» Her legs and feet are covered in bloody scratches and abrasions. Another Haitian woman sits in the corner of the front yard and cannot get up. She says she hasn’t eaten in three days. Fortunately, she adds, nothing happened to her daughter.
“We charge them for sleeping here,” says an elderly native with a Haitian woman sitting in his yard. Some here charge $5 for a rooftop spot. Along with several kiosks selling everyday goods, there is a Western Union checkout in the village.
Migrants must leave the place as quickly as possible, but they must also be paid for this. A boat ride to Lajas Blancas, the refugee reception center, costs about $10 per person. And the further journey towards Costa Rica in large, brightly colored buses costs $40.
An excited crowd — a group of Haitians — is waiting at the departure point. Some of them traveled through the jungle together. They say they were attacked by 6 masked men, five had firearms and the sixth had a machete. “If you don’t have money, they kill you,” says Dubeny Jolie, 39, who travels with his sister and young nephew. He is feverish and his eyes are red. He makes a movement with his hand, as if cutting his own throat. «One family couldn’t give them anything, so they took a machete and killed their 12-year-old daughter in front of their parents.» He also says that he saw them insert their fingers into the vaginas of 6- or 7-year-old girls in search of money, and that several women, as well as 12- and 14-year-old girls, were raped.
“All stories are the same,” says Owen Broyle, MSF coordinator. “Violence is carried out almost systematically.” He says that this is happening in front of the entire group. “Thus, everyone is traumatized, including witnesses and relatives who are powerless and feel guilty.” The organization is distributing emergency kits to victims, which include hepatitis shots and antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV infection. Doctors Without Borders has documented more than 240 rapes since April, since they opened a crisis center in Bajo Chiquito. The actual number of victims is likely to be much higher.
No one is to walk across the Darien Gap. There are alternative routes. Migrants can be taken along the coast by boat to Panama and transferred to buses there. “We are negotiating such a solution with Colombia, but have not yet reached an agreement,” said Daira Carrizo, Deputy Foreign Minister of Panama. Colombian politician Carlos Camargo recently spoke about the humanitarian bridge during his visit to the region. But so far this bridge does not exist. There is only an agreement that Colombia should let no more than 500 people a day into Darien. But Carrizo says many more are coming. “We want orderly, controlled, safe migration,” she says. Panama registers people upon arrival and provides them with accommodation, basic health care and food.
“They send people to the slaughterhouse,” says Broyle, Médecins Sans Frontières coordinator. The Panamanian side has now sent additional forces into the jungle, rescue operations are being carried out. In addition, there has been a significant decrease in the number of cases of sexual violence in recent weeks. However, the Darien Gap is far from being a safe route. Officials say it is impossible to control the region militarily.
Marie Bernardine Sion, 35, holding a baby. Her husband Romain, an auto mechanic, takes a sip of lemonade. “We are going on this journey because we have a daughter. We want her to have a better future, to have more opportunities.» His wife kneads a thin gold chain between her fingers.
Romain says that recently life in Chile has become more difficult and the mood in the country has become more hostile. He tells how people told him, «Go home, you’re taking our jobs away.» Someone even called him a «terrorist» on the bus, he recalls. According to him, under the new conservative government in the country, it has become more difficult to renew a residence permit. Romain also lost his regular job during the pandemic and was forced to rely on a temporary one.
Sayon is constantly wiping sweat from the child’s forehead. His wife is suffering from a fever, Romain says, and she has almost no breast milk left. The two have been together for over six years and have known each other since childhood. They moved together to Port-au-Prince and then left the country. Roman’s WhatsApp profile photo is evidence of happier days: the couple laughing, cheek to cheek. Now his wife is tearfully avoiding his gaze. «She’s a little depressed,» says Romain, «and angry with me.» It was his decision to travel to the USA.
Marie Bernadine Sayon and her husband Vikendi Romain want a better future for their three-month-old daughter. Photo: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
«I’m afraid of the forest,» she says, holding the baby to her breast.
Is this your first child?
“Our first one died,” they both say at the same time. They’ve already lost one. The child was only eight months old. It was at the very beginning of their relationship, in Haiti, a country where, as Romain says, «things get worse every day.»
In recent weeks, dozens of flights have deported nearly 8,000 Haitians from the US back to their impoverished homeland. Back to a country they haven’t lived in for years and never seen by their children.
The Donald Trump administration has issued an executive order called Section 42, which, under the guise of fighting the coronavirus pandemic, allows the US to deport people within hours of arrival without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum. President Biden decided to continue this policy and apply it primarily to people from Haiti.
“We are focused on our goal,” says Romain.
He bought instant soups to make his way through the jungle. He also wants to buy a tent, sturdy shoes, flashlights, milk powder, and diapers, and plans to bring $300 in cash with him. He doesn’t know exactly how much the smugglers charge. The cheapest ones cost about $80 per person, with additional fees for providing sleeping accommodations and river crossings. Guides will carry a backpack for approximately $10 and a child for $30. Many, however, disappear after the first day.
On this day, the sea in Necokli is calm and a few children are splashing in the shallow water. Roman’s wife was away for a few minutes. Suddenly, Romain leans against a white pickup truck, covers his face with his hands and begins to cry, and then hurriedly leaves.
A few days later he says on WhatsApp that everything is fine. Preparations for the trip are in full swing. Peterson also decided to cross the jungle with his family.
US Jungle Escape: Death awaits migrants in Darien Gorge0001
More people than ever are seeking asylum in the United States. Along the way, they must cross perhaps the most dangerous place in the world: the jungle on the border between Colombia and Panama, where smugglers, rebel militias and rapists hide.
The Gulf of Darien is a place that cannot be imagined in Europe. The vast jungle bordering Central and South America is an important route for thousands of refugees heading to the United States. This year, from January to September, about 91,000 people risking their lives. According to him, walking takes from seven to ten days. Santiago Paz.
The head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Panama warns of a dangerous journey on the ntv podcast «Learned Something More». “You can get robbed or attacked in the jungle,” says Paz. “Illness is also a problem or leg injury because you have to walk for so long.
Darien is the green border between Panama and Colombia. The length of the jungle is 339kilometers from west to east. Actually, the longest expressway in the world, the Panamericana, should pass through it. It is about 25,000 kilometers long and connects Alaska in northern America with Tierra del Fuego in southern Argentina.
Santiago Paz from Ecuador, worked for IOM for 20 years.
But where the jungle begins, the road ends. There is still a gap in Darien about 110 kilometers long, the English gap. Those who want to traverse the mountainous and marshy jungle will not find roads or paved roads, but drug and arms smugglers or former guerrillas from the FARC rebel militia. Most migrants face them alone, explains IOM leader Paz: “Some migrants hire a pilot, but they don’t always show you how to get through the jungle. Sometimes they rob migrants or rape them.”
Observers agree that the danger in the region is diverse: the gap between Colombia and Panama is one of the deadliest places in the world. Not only smugglers, militias or criminal migrants are a danger to life and health, but also a ruthless character. Travelers will have to overcome 1800 meters of height in the jungle — from valleys to the highest peaks — in one of the rainiest regions on earth. Flash floods often surprise unprepared people in their dreams and sweep them into one of the many rivers.
Mass graves of the dead
No one can say how many people failed or even died during the dangerous march through the jungle this year alone. Panama records how many people leave Darien, but no one checks how many people enter.
Jungle deadly: emergency services in Panama bury a group of dead migrants.
(Photo: picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS)
It is clear that they are on the rise: over the past decade, about 10,000 people have emerged from the jungle on Panama’s southern border and moved further north towards the US. But this year the numbers have skyrocketed. In July alone, the Panamanian government suddenly counted 19000 migrants from all over the world. Of the 91,000 who wanted to flee and marched through the jungle by September, the vast majority came from Haiti and Cuba. But there are also people from countries like Bangladesh, Senegal, Ghana, Uzbekistan, India and Nepal.
Emergency services regularly have to go out and dig mass graves with heavy equipment to bury those who are starving or thirsty in the jungle, drowned in one of the many rivers, or simply killed.
One disaster follows another
Santiago Paz speaks about the refugee situation in the region, which no one expected: after the political and economic collapse in Venezuela, about five million people left the country and sought asylum or work in neighboring countries such as Colombia. In addition, thousands of people almost completely disconnected from it. collapsed Haiti fled. The political repression and scarcity economy in Cuba is also causing many people to flee. One disaster follows another.
Women, children and pregnant women are at risk of embarking on dangerous journeys in the hope of finding a better life.
(Photo: Picture Alliance / AA)
Despite being geographically close, the easiest route from Haiti and Cuba to your desired US destination is through South America and the Darien jungle. Only some borders are open to people from Africa or Haiti. Brazil, among other things, allows them to enter the country, where they are often viewed as cheap labor. But often the job is just a means to earn enough money to travel north.
From Brazil, people head to Colombia, a small town of Necocli on the shores of the Gulf of Uraba with a population of 70,000 people. Sometimes they wait there for days or weeks for the Thousand on their onward journey. They cross the strait by boat or ferry and, about an hour and a half later, land on the other side in the far north of Colombia in Acandi. A small Caribbean town at the foot of the Darien, just a few kilometers from the border with Panama — with no connection to the center of Colombia.
The jungle march begins in a city of 12,000 people. “Once you reach the Hill of the Dead, you are in Panama,” says MOM boss Paz. “From there you will enter one of two small communities.”
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But Panama is just a stopover. Transit country, such as before Colombia, and then Costa Rica. Or like in the poorer states of Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, where more and more people are joining the long refugee route north to Mexico or the US. Last July alone, the United States faced 210,000 illegal immigrants on its southern border. Some border guards were brutally driven away on horseback.
This is a humanitarian catastrophe that no country can solve alone, says Santiago Paz. The entire region, the international community must work together to find out «why families, women, pregnant women and abandoned children take such risks.»
Lots of money to stay away from
Despite the increase in the number of refugees, the migration expert is sure that the states and governments concerned have realized the seriousness of the situation.