BSS
  12 Jun 2024, 12:12

US to expand human trafficking fight to Darien Gap

  WASHINGTON, June 12, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - The United States said Tuesday it
would expand an inter-agency effort to combat human trafficking to the
dangerous Darien Gap, the dense jungle on the Colombia-Panama border
traversed by many US-bound migrants.

The US Justice and Homeland Security Departments announced both countries
would be added to their Joint Task Force Alpha, a specialized unit created in
June 2021 to investigate and prosecute people smugglers.

Previously, the task force worked in Mexico and three central American
countries -- El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

"We are expanding our enforcement efforts to the Darien -- among the most
dangerous migrant crossings on Earth -- and deploying rewards programs like
the ones that have brought down drug kingpins to pursue human smugglers,"
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement.

"To those who traffic human beings through the Darien, know this: the full
force of the US government is coming for you."

At the same time, the State Department announced it was offering $8 million
in rewards for any information leading to the capture or disruption of human
trafficking networks operated by the Gulf Clan.

Migrants crossing the Darien Gap face treacherous terrain, wild animals and
violent criminal gangs that extort, kidnap and abuse them.

In recent years, many of them have come from South America, trying to cross
Central America into Mexico, with the United States as their final
destination.

Last month, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that more than 30,000
migrant children had been through the crossing in the first four months of
2024 -- a 40 percent increase compared with the same period last year.

Some 2.8 million undocumented migrants enter the United States each year.

As the US election campaign gathers speed, immigration has emerged as a key
issue in the race between Democratic President Joe Biden and presumptive
Republican challenger Donald Trump.

The former president accuses Biden of allowing an "invasion" at the US-Mexico
border and has vowed a mass deportation effort if sent back to the White
House.

Biden, seeking to neutralize Republican attacks, recently issued an executive
order that would bar migrants who enter the US illegally from claiming asylum
when numbers surge past 2,500 in a day.

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