DARIEN GAP, Panama - The migrants flooding into the U.S. are part of an unbroken chain stretching all the way to South America. The impact of thousands of people making the trek north is taking a huge toll on the communities they pass through.
CBN News traveled to the notorious Darien Gap region once again to witness the massive migration through treacherous terrain.
As we observed, what was once one of the most remote and pristine jungles on planet Earth is now an environmental disaster. Trash litters banks of the river locals once depended on for their water. The bitter irony is that now, in a place that gets a dozen feet of rain each year, these indigenous tribes now have to import bottled water.
We visited the Rio Turquesa, going into the Darien Gap. By 8 A.M. we passed dozens and dozens of boats completely full of migrants. These migrants are from all over the world and they're all headed out to the river end where the road is. But there are not enough boats to get them out of here and get them down to the road where they can continue their journey to the United States.
Three hours upriver, we came to the last village before reaching the Colombian border. The scene is apocalyptic.
Thousands of migrants arrive each day. More than six times the village's original population. There's nowhere to sleep and no adequate facilities for the crush of humanity dragging in after six days in the jungle.
People line up to register for the boat ride out, standing for hours under the merciless sun. Although many suffer from heat stroke, the tiny clinic has almost nothing to offer.
We observed as people were passing out left and right under the scorching sun. There aren't many resources here to address this issue. At the clinic, they need volunteers and supplies. With thousands of people coming in here every day, there's just no way they can take care of all the people that are coming in with needs.
By this point in their journey, these migrants already been walking through the jungle for five or six days. When they get here, they're all half dead. Some of them are mostly dead, completely dehydrated, passed out in the sun. And they really need time to recover before they continue their journey.
Many are dying in the jungle.
We spoke to Tabir, an Afghan migrant. He told us, "People was passing the river. They could just see the dead bodies in front of them. And me and my friends, we just go and we just covered them with some plastic because we didn't want some wild animals to eat them or something. And also there were some children and also some families. They were passing from that we didn't wanted them to see the dead bodies. And it was extremely, extremely dangerous way. And I think the people who are going to have to pass this way, they're going to have the nightmare of this way til the end of their lives, unfortunately."
The residents here are suffering as well.
Darien resident Jason Cook said, "They're not getting any help from outside...all these communities are really hurting. And even with sanitation and places for people to stay, that's why they're building the new site down there, down the river, is to get them out of here and to a different site that is away from the village because I guess their kids aren't even going to school. You know, there's late-night partying and they can't sleep. So it's an issue with them."
Now, that tribe has reached a breaking point. They're building a separate camp for migrants across the river. One that will hold up to 15,000.
Pablo Guainora, director general of the Embera/Wounan Comarca, said, "We've decided that it has to be a shelter away from the community, which should give migrants their own place for food and shelter, as this has affected every aspect of our lives, including social, economic, cultural and even education."
Lucindo Dojirama, an indigenous community policeman, said, "We are setting up a shelter for a better quality of life for the migrants. We want things to be more organized. Right now they are defecating in the same streets where they are sleeping. Nobody wants that. We want everything to be well-organized and in order so that the migrants feel better when they come to the community."
This year the number of people traversing the gap en route to the U.S. has exceeded 350,000, which is already 100,000 more than 2022. And despite the toll in human misery, the numbers just keep rising.