Rich Chinese migrants seeking a better life in the States are seeing the red carpet rolled in front of them when they approach the dangerous Darién Gap, it has been claimed.
The Gap, which separates Colombia and Panama, is one of the routes most crossed by migrants trying to reach the United States.
The area, which connects the North and South American continents and consists mostly of a thick jungle, a large watershed and mountains, is crossed every year by thousands of people who want to reach Central America and continue their journey north.
While most of the people handing their lives and futures to smugglers come from Haiti and Venezuela, Panama’s government has noticed an increased number of Chinese nationals trying to cross the Gap and its thick jungle.
In 2022 alone, more than 1,300 Chinese migrants crossed the jungle, a number three times higher than that recorded in the previous decade.
But the experience of many of these migrants is different from the less affluent Venezuelans and Haitians, according to Colombian publication El Tiempo.
Many of the Chinese nationals trying to reach the States often travel with a substantial amount of US dollars, which opens the doors to better accommodation while they wait for their trip to begin and an easier journey through the Gap, the publication wrote.
While they wait in Necoclí, a Colombian town that has become one of the main starting points for the migrants’ journeys to Central America, traders and hoteliers treat “like kings” these rich Chinese nationals, who behave more like tourists than migrants, El Tiempo wrote.
Virleidis Villadiego, who works in a hotel in the area, told the publication: “You see Chinese people everywhere in town buying with dollars or paying with credit cards.
“They use a translator on their mobile phones, and the strange thing is that they often don’t ask prices, they just hand over the dollars and that’s it.”
Their money also allows these migrants to choose the most expensive and fastest route, worth around £2,063 ($2,500), the publication reported.
This trip is usually done at night and lasts for approximately hours. It sees the migrants being dropped off in the Darién jungle, from where they have to walk one day to reach Bajo Chiquito, the first town in Panamanian territory.
There, the report says, they will find other smugglers ready to help them, for a fee, cross Central America and enter the US.
Other migrants who can’t afford this easier, but still dangerous, trip are reportedly given the choice by smugglers between an eight-day journey through the jungle or smuggling drugs and reaching the border with Panama in three days.
The reason why many Chinese nationals are choosing to travel to South America and travel north to reach the States rather than attempting a direct journey is how difficult it has become for them to obtain a visa to access the US or even Central America in light of China’s Covid-19 control policies and the difficult relations between Beijing and Washington.