Migrants carrying children walk by the jungle near Bajo Chiquito
Migrants carrying children walk by the jungle near Bajo Chiquito village, the first border control of the Darien Province in Panama, on September 22, 2023. AFP

Record numbers of migrants crossing the hostile Darien gap jungle in 2023 included 120,000 minors, the Panama government said Monday.

The year ended with 520,085 people recorded as traversing the lawless, thick rainforest that straddles Panama and Colombia, Panama's public security ministry wrote on Twitter.

Most of those braving the crossing, which can take up to six days, were fleeing economic misery in Venezuela, with more than 320,000 risking it all in the jungle this year.

Ecuadorans and Haitians were the next biggest groups, while over 25,000 Chinese citizens also took on the trek.

Vietnamese, Afghans and citizens of Cameroon or Burkina Faso were also recorded.

The number of migrants crossing the Darien Gap has more than doubled since 2022, when 248,000 passed through.

Panama authorities in September announced a series of measures to try and contain the surge in migration, such as an increase in deportations of people who enter the country illegally.

Migrants face rivers, wild animals, and violent criminal gangs in the jungle.

Upon arrival in Panama, they head to Costa Rica, and then Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, before making their way to the United States border.