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'They are raping us': Hundreds of migrants sexually assaulted en route to US

Migrants walk by the jungle near Bajo Chiquito village, the first border control of the Darien Province in Panama, on September 22, 2023. The clandestine journey through the Darien Gap usually lasts five or six days, at the mercy of all kinds of bad weather.
Migrants walk by the jungle near Bajo Chiquito village, the first border control of the Darien Province in Panama, on September 22, 2023. The clandestine journey through the Darien Gap usually lasts five or six days, at the mercy of all kinds of bad weather. | Luis Acosta/AFP via Getty Images

Doctors Without Borders is reporting a surge in sexual violence impacting migrants traveling from Latin America to the United States as concerns about securing the southern border continue to loom large in American politics. 

The international nongovernmental organization, which works to "deliver emergency medical aid to people in crisis" in more than 70 countries, published a statement last week revealing that it has treated 397 survivors of sexual violence in 2023 as they have crossed into Panama. Ninety-five percent of the victims are female.

The group noted that it had assisted 107 survivors of sexual assault in October alone. 

In one week in October, Doctors Without Borders encountered 59 sexual assault victims. Many of the survivors were underage, with the group identifying three of the most recent victims as children aged 11, 12 and 16 years old. 

The nonprofit organization suggested that the number of sexual assaults occurring in the notoriously dangerous 60-mile stretch of wilderness in Colombia and Panama known as the Darien Gap, one of the most dangerous migrant crossings in the world, is much higher.

According to Doctors Without Borders, over 460,000 migrants have crossed the Darién Gap so far in 2023 on their journey toward the United States. 

"Not all people who experience sexual violence receive timely attention due to the stigma against victims surrounding this form of violence, threats from perpetrators, lack of recognition of forms of sexual violence, and the fact that people do not feel safe asking for help," Doctors Without Borders Medical Coordinator Carmenza Galvez said in a statement. 

"In addition, there is the fear that reporting the crimes may delay their journey north."

Doctors Without Borders shared testimony from a Venezuelan migrant who witnessed sexual assaults and other mistreatments firsthand as she journeyed through Latin America. She said the entire group she traveled with was kidnapped by armed men. 

"They beat me on my legs with a bat because those of us who had no money were beaten," she recalled. "Those who said they didn't have any money, but when searched were found to have some, were hurt even more. They said, 'Oh yes, she has some money,' and they raped them. I saw many people raped. I saw them left naked and beaten. One, two, or three of them grab you and rape you, and then the next one comes and rapes you again, and if you scream, they beat you." 

The woman said that "some young men were also beaten and thrown onto the ground for trying to defend the women," adding, "They killed a boy in front of us with a shot to the forehead." She pleaded for "no more deaths or rapes," remarking, "It is not fair that they do this to us." 

"We understand there are rivers, animals, and snakes, but most harmful are the men inside the jungle. They are raping us and ending our lives," she added. 

Doctors Without Borders is calling on governments to "ensure an effective presence in the Darien Gap to end the many risks to which migrants are exposed, including sexual violence."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported a record-breaking 2.4 million encounters between illegal immigrants and law enforcement officials at the southwest border in fiscal year 2023, which came to a close in September. 

The surge in border crossings has strained resources in border towns and the largest cities in the U.S. Dissatisfaction with federal immigration policy is reflected in President Joe Biden's negative approval ratings as measured by the RealClearPolitics average of polls.

While he has a 40.6% approval rating overall, Biden's approval rating on the issue of immigration is 34.5%. By contrast, 62.5% of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the issue. 

A poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports this month found that 55% of likely U.S. voters approve of the congressional effort to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. In comparison, 33% disapprove of the attempt to oust the agency leader tasked with ensuring an orderly immigration system and national security. The survey questioned 997 U.S. likely voters and had a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

Earlier this month, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., filed articles of impeachment against Mayorkas. If approved by the Republican-controlled House, two-thirds of the 100 U.S. Senators would need to support his conviction in order to ensure his removal from office. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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