More migrants report sexual abuse while crossing Panama’s Darien Gap – .

More migrants report sexual abuse while crossing Panama’s Darien Gap – .

LAJAS BLANCAS, Panama (AP) – A growing number of migrant women crossing the forbidden Darien Gap jungle between Colombia and Panama on their way north are reporting sexual assaults, drawing the attention of Panamanian lawmakers.
On Saturday, a 25-year-old Haitian told members of a Panamanian congressional committee visiting Darien province that she had been assaulted a few days earlier while she was navigating the lawless zone with her husband and her 8 month old son.

The family got off a boat that had transported them along a tumultuous river to Lajas Blancas from Bajo Chiquito, the first small population center encountered by many migrants after crossing the mountainous border. Hundreds of other migrants arrived alongside them on Saturday.

Panamanian lawmaker Zulay Rodríguez said her committee has gathered around 1,000 allegations of sexual abuse since they began investigating the matter two months ago.

“It’s the daily life of (migrant) women when they are young, when they are around 20 or 30 years old,” Rodriguez said. Abusers “don’t bother to rape them in front of their husbands or families. it shows indifference. “

“It just happened for a long time and for many years,” said Rodríguez, head of the Women, Children, Youth and Family Committee and member of the Democratic Revolutionary Party.

The Haitian woman who spoke to the committee said she and her husband had lived in Brazil for two years after leaving Haiti, then decided to head north. She said she was assaulted one afternoon last week by a man who had his face covered and who was holding a gun to his head.

She showed a document from the aid organization Médecins sans frontières certifying that a medical examination had confirmed the assault.

Her husband said they hadn’t thought of making a formal complaint to the authorities because they couldn’t identify her attacker.

The couple were penniless as the perpetrator also took all their money and cell phones. The police arranged for them to be transported by boat to Lajas Blancas because they could not afford the fare.

Liseydis Martínez, a Cuban migrant, said she saw two Cuban friends come out of the jungle bleeding and crying, who said they were sexually assaulted. They had traveled in groups behind his.

“Thank God, nothing happened to me, but in the group behind there were four Cubans and two of them who arrived (Friday), they raped them as well as a 13-year-old Haitian”, a- she declared. “My God, this is horrible!

“They were bad,” she said of the victims. “Their husbands were beaten.

Martínez was waiting in Lajas Blancas with her husband and their children aged 3 and 6. She said they had been swindled of $ 1,500 at Necocli, the main point of departure in Colombia, by a man who posed as a soldier capable of transporting their families to Panama.

Rodríguez, the lawmaker, said she would ensure reports reach the attorney general’s office and international aid groups.

Its committee has produced short documentaries on assaults, thefts and deaths among migrants entering Panama through the Darien Gap. She wishes to draw the attention of the authorities to the problems plaguing the Darien jungle.

At the Lajas Blancas migrant reception center, migrants receive food and medical care while waiting for buses to pass across Panama, near the border with Costa Rica.

The flow of migrants through the Darien Gap this year was the highest in more than a decade. So far, more than 107,000 migrants – mostly Haitians – have made the trip. The authorities are expecting 50,000 more in the coming months.


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