The number of Africans who have illegally traveled through Panama on their way to the United Sates has more than doubled so far this year, reaching more than 700, according to a Spanish-language news report.
That figure only accounts for those who have been apprehended by Panamanian authorities. When apprehended the immigrants are not deported. They are allowed to pass through instead. The illegals spend no longer than a week in Panama.
According to an August 8 report by the Spanish EFE news agency that went largely unnoticed by English-language media, in 2015 alone, “708 Africans have crossed the Darien jungle [in Panama] in search of the American dream.”
In just one year, the number of immigrants from Africa who have traveled illegally through Panama on their way to the United Sates has increased by 134 percent, adds that report.
“They were not deported because it is difficult to do so. Their countries of origin have no diplomatic representation in Panama and the process becomes complicated. In addition they are in transit, so you let them go,” Domingo Flores, the migration supervisor for the areas of Darien and San Blas, told EFE.
The migrant and economic crisis affecting Europe and the open door policy of some Latin American countries such as Ecuador, are behind this “abysmal” surge of immigrants, explained Frank Abrego, the chief of Panama’s National Border Service.
Many African immigrants are choosing to travel through the “inhospitable and hostile” Panamanian jungle to reach the United States, rather than cross into Europe through the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea, described as a “cemetery,” notes the report.
“The United States is better than Europe, there are more opportunities for us there, and it is much safer. The [Mediterranean] sea and the Sahara desert (Morocco) are extremely dangerous,” an Eritrean told EFE in perfect English, choosing not to give his name.
The vast majority of Africans traveling through Central America are males from Somalia, a failed state troubled by famine and Islamist terrorism, adds EFE.
“I almost died. That jungle is hell,” added Abdi Wahab Ali Osman, a 29-year-old Somalian, describing his journey through Panama’s Darien territory, nearly 8,000 square miles of tropical rainforest along the Colombia-Panama border controlled by drug traffickers and guerrillas from Colombia.
Somalia, Eritrea, and other African countries are found on a list of 35 nations described in a November 2004 U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) memo as “special interest countries.”
The inspector general for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security described special interest countries as those “that have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members.”
Human trafficking “mafias” charge the African immigrants who end up traveling through Panama between $3,000 and $4,000 for an airline ticket to Brazil and Ecuador. From there, they travel to the border between Colombia and Panama where they encounter the immense and roadless Darien jungle, where they have to travel by foot for four or five days.
The human traffickers “wait for no man,” an 18-year-old man from Somalia told EFE on condition of anonymity.
Many immigrants die in the Darien jungle, “defeated by fatigue and the elements,” reports the Spanish news agency.
Africans are not the only foreign nationals trying to reach the U.S. through the Panamanian rain forest. Many of them are from Nepal.
According to a Panamanian border agency, 215 Nepalese immigrants crossed the Darien jungle in just the last two weeks of July, 150 more than during the same period in 2014.
During the Ebola outbreak in Africa last year, Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, warned that a “large percentage” of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the United States through Mexico are from West Africa.
He noted that West Africans are traveling through Central America on their way to the United States.
In March 2015, Gen. Kelly cautioned that Islamic extremists could exploit the knowledge of human trafficking organizations in Latin America to infiltrate the U.S.
He added that foreign nationals from countries like Somalia, where Islamist terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and al Shabaab are known to operate, could be seeking to enter the U.S. to do Americans harm.
Gen. Kelly mentioned that a group of Liberians were spotted on the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border on their way into the U.S. illegally. Costa Rica borders Panama.
Breitbart News, citing a leaked report from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), reported that illegal aliens from Somalia with ties to terrorist organizations have been working to bring other suspected terrorists into America through the Texas border.
In 2014, at least 474 illegals from terrorist-linked countries, some of them located in Africa, were apprehended trying to enter the U.S.