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The number of Venezuelans crossing the Darien into North America has increased dramatically as several countries have imposed visa requirements that make it difficult for Venezuelans to travel by plane to Mexico and Central America. Venezuelan nationals have surpassed Cubans and Haitians as the largest population crossing the Darien in 2022, and now account for more than a third of all migrants using this dangerous route. During days-long treks through the jungle, migrants of numerous nationalities suffer repeated robberies and serious abuses, including rape. They also face dangers caused by natural conditions, such as raging rivers and wild animals.
Many migrants who have taken this longer route reported being attacked by criminal gangs who robbed and threatened them. Between January and May, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provided medical and psychological assistance to 89 women of various nationalities who were sexually abused in the Darien Gap.
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Smuggled migrants are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and their lives and safety are often at risk: they can suffocate inside containers, perish in the desert or drown at sea while being driven by smugglers who profit from a trade in which migrants become commodities. Because it is a clandestine crime, global value figures are difficult to determine with precision. However, based on two of the main smuggling routes: from East, North and West Africa to Europe and from South America to North America, it is estimated that this crime generates around US$ 6.75 billion annually for criminals operating in these regions alone . However, that figure is presumably much higher at the global level.
Migrant smugglers are becoming increasingly organized and establishing professional networks that transcend borders and regions. As with other forms of organized crime, groups involved in this criminal activity have expanded their operations by changing routes in an attempt to expand into other markets and evade state repression. Some groups have merged or established cooperative relationships, expanding their geographic scope and the range of their criminal activities. For some criminal groups, migrants are simply another illicit trafficking product, along with drugs and firearms, and because migrant smuggling is a highly profitable business with a relatively low risk of detection, this criminal activity is attractive to criminals.
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Any traveler suffering from a chronic illness should carry the necessary medication for the entire duration of the trip. All medications, especially those requiring a prescription, should be carried in hand luggage in their original containers with visible labels. As a precaution against loss or theft, it is advisable to carry medication in duplicate in checked baggage. The traveler should carry with him/her the name and contact details of his/her physician along with other travel documents, and information on his/her medical condition and treatment, as well as details of the medication (including generic names of medications) and prescribed dosages. This information should also be kept in electronic format so that it can be retrieved remotely (e.g. in a secure database). It is also necessary to carry a physician’s report, certifying the need for medication or other medical supplies (e.g. syringes) carried by the passenger, which may be requested by customs officials and/or security personnel.
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The Embassy has expanded its work in Colombia to support UK interests and identified opportunities for British companies in Colombia in new areas such as infrastructure, science and innovation, higher education, among others. The Embassy provides consular assistance to British citizens in the country. Bogota is home to the UK’s largest visa operation in South America and has now become a hub for Central America.
If you are in Colombia and need urgent assistance (for example if you have been attacked, arrested or lost your passport), please call +57 601 326 8300. If you are in the UK and are concerned about a British citizen in Colombia, please call 020 7008 1500.
If your passport has been stolen, you will need a police report before an ETD can be issued. You can obtain one online. Please print a copy of the report and bring it to the Embassy on the day of your appointment.
If you are a British citizen traveling abroad and need to apply for a visa to visit a particular country or check if you need a visa, visit our travel recommendations to see the entry requirements for the country you plan to visit.