More Haitian migrants face deadly jungle after crossing Colombia-Panama border

At the Colombian coastal town of Necoclí, there is a store selling only boat tickets to cross the Gulf of Urabá — which acts as the bridge between South and Central America.

At $40 per person, the store sells out quickly. A worker tapes a piece of paper to the door announcing when there will be a ticket sale again. It’s in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.

Other stores like it also can’t keep up with the demand. Nathalie Pierre, who was born in Haiti, managed to get tickets. She is traveling with a toddler and was waiting in line at the Necoclí port.

“Anything can happen,” Pierre said in broken Spanish. “I am scared I will die, or maybe my daughter will die.”

Visa restrictions and Panama’s immigration limits aren’t dissuading migrants, mostly from Haiti, Cuba, and Venezuela, from risking it all to get to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Those who try to cross the Gulf of Urabá at night in unreliable vessels and without wearing lifejackets are drowning, according to Luis Andrés Fajardo, the Deputy Ombudsman of Colombia.

Those who cross safely to the other side of the Gulf of Urabá and to the Colombian village of Acandí follow paths to the border with Panama.

Some Acandí residents wait with horse-drawn vehicles to offer a short ride for $20 per person. There were women carrying babies. They ventured to cross the border with Panama.

The migrants hike through the 60-mile Darién Gap, a dense and lawless mountainous jungle, and cross the Chucunaque River, the longest river in Panama.

From a clinic at the small town of Bajo Chiquito, Doctors Without Borders’ volunteers report treating rape victims and traumatized survivors haunted by the decomposing corpses.

The migrants with foot injuries, skin conditions, and wounds leave the town to begin their treacherous journey through the migrant routes of Central America.

Torres contributed to this report from Miami.

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