Darien is Panama’s largest and poorest province. Bordering Colombia, the province hosts a 60-mile-deep jungle, the only breaking point of the Pan-American Highway, linking the continent from south to north. Darien is a transit location for thousands of refugees and migrants, most of them coming from Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba, and African and South Asian nations.
According to official statistics of the Panamanian National Migration Service (SNM), from 2010 to 2020 some 120,000 people crossed through this area. In 2021 and 2022, Panama faced an unprecedented mixed movement crisis, with nearly 400,000 people making this perilous journey through the jungle. In 2022, a total of 248,284 people entered the country irregularly through Darien.
Before they arrived at the Darien jungle, many of these refugees and migrants had previously crossed multiple countries often through unofficial border crossings, resulting in increased protection risks. These vulnerabilities were further exacerbated, during their journey through the jungle, by many risks and incidents which include, but are not limited to, thefts, physical and sexual attacks, murder, and extortion. Many of these refugees and migrants were also undocumented, limiting their access to basic services.
Due to protection concerns, in July 2022, UNHCR started collecting monthly information on the characteristics, vulnerabilities, and protection needs of refugees and migrants entering Panama through the Darien jungle.
Kind of Data
Sample survey data [ssd]
Unit of Analysis
v2.1: Edited, cleaned and anonymised data.
The scope includes:
- individual demographics
- movement details
- basic needs
Data collection happened in key transit points in Darien and Chiriqui provinces such as: reception points San Vicente, Lajas Blancas, and Los Planes de Gualaca, in addition to the city of David and the town of Paso Canoas.
Producers and sponsors
Given the dynamic and challenging context for data collection in these locations, the surveys were collected using non-probability quota sampling. A stratified quota was drawn using proportions from the Panamanian National Migration Service’s official statistics, based on the top ten nationalities in transit. A minimum of 100 surveys were collected during each monthly data collection cycle.
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Computer Assisted Personal Interview [capi]
Data Collection Notes
Data collection was conducted by UNHCR Multi-Functional team with staff based in Panama, Darien and Chiriquí offices, through a structured tool deployed from UNHCR’s secure server on KOBO Toolbox platform.
The questionnaire contained the following sections: introduction, personal information, reasons for leaving the country of origin, reasons for leaving the country of establishment, destination country, arrival and access to territory, protection incidents, specific condition, access to food and basic services.