Panama asked Colombia for an “immediate meeting” to discuss the growing trafficking of irregular migrants through the common border on their way to North America, Panamanian Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes said on Tuesday.
About 2,000 irregular migrants entered Panama in the last two weeks through the dangerous Darien jungle, the natural border between the country and Colombia, authorities reported last week, warning that there is a “considerable and sudden increase” in this migratory flow.
The migrants are “extracontinental and Haitian” and there are “entire families with pregnant women and children who risk their lives walking through the wooded jungle for more than 10 hours”, explains a statement from the Ministry of Security.
“So far this year, and with the opening of the borders, there has been an increase in immigrants coming from the south of the continent,” said the Minister of Public Security of Panama, Juan Manuel Pino.
Pino was in the province of Darién along with the Deputy Minister of Health, Ivette Berrío, and the director of the National Border Service (Senafront), Oriel Ortega, evaluating the situation, after 442 migrants arrived on Wednesday night.
According to the minister, “442 immigrants arrived in Bajo Chiquito,” the first stop in Panama after crossing Darién, one of the most dangerous migration routes in the world, not only because of its characteristics of a tropical jungle but because there are neighboring organized crime groups such as drug traffickers and guerrillas.
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Since the beginning of the year, some 7,000 migrants have passed through Panama from South America and there are currently 3,400said Pino, who attributed “this considerable and sudden increase” to the opening of borders.
This Monday, UNICEF also warned that the passage of minors through the inhospitable jungle of Darien has skyrocketed in recent years, since since 2017 the number of children and adolescents multiplied by 15.
Pino assured that Panama will maintain a “controlled flow of migrants arriving in the country through the Darien jungle” and will provide them with “dignified treatment” in “respect for international human rights conventions and treaties.”
“We are going to give it the proper treatment, as we have always done in the pandemic, respecting the human rights of migrants, keeping the flow controlled without entering the Panamanian populations to avoid any type of contagion,” he said.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Inter-American Court of Human Rights) has already asked Panama to solve the overcrowding problems that exist in the Darien immigration station, and that increase the risk of contagion of COVID-19, after which the authorities built a new one in San Vicente, located in the same area.
Every year thousands of irregular migrants from Haiti, Cuba, Africa and Asia, moved by human traffickers, arrive in Panama from South America and bound for the United States. to improve their living conditions, in a flow that has generated humanitarian crises in the Central American isthmus.
Given the serious situation, Panama asked Colombia for an “immediate meeting” to discuss the growing trafficking of irregular migrants through the common border on their route to North America, Panamanian Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes said on Tuesday.
You may be interested in: In 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, migrants were trapped in the Darien
Given “the increase that has occurred particularly in the last days of the week” in the arrival of irregular migrants through the Darien jungle, natural border with Colombia, “immediately” Panama requested a “binational meeting,” he said. the chancellor.
The Panamanian Government stated that in the meeting, whose date and place of celebration are unknown, participate “the Ministers of Security, the Migration authorities, both Foreign Ministries obviously, to try to address this increase that has occurred” in migrant trafficking .
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In this discussion in search of a “comprehensive solution” to this issue of irregular migration “we must involve the United States, which is the country they aspire to reach, clearly impacting” during their transit to the countries through which they pass, Mouynes said.
“These migrants arrive in other countries in South America: Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and then they begin that journey,” which includes Panama, he stressed.
The Foreign Minister recalled that the Panamanian State offers humanitarian aid to migrants, such as health care and food, in an “effort” that “must be made visible internationally.”
Every year thousands of irregular migrants moved by human traffickers arrive in Panama from South America and bound for the United States, in a flow that has generated humanitarian crises in the Central American isthmus in recent years.
The closure of the borders in 2020 produced an agglomeration of these travelers in shelters located in indigenous villages of the Panamanian Darién, which led the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) to issue in May of that year a resolution in which it ordered the Panamanian State resolve overcrowding and guarantee access to health services for this population in transit.
Colombia stops buses loaded with migrants
More than 50 migrants, mainly Caribbean, were detained while traveling on buses in northwestern Colombia bound for Panama, the immigration authority reported in a statement.
See more: The drama of children who migrate through the Colombian Darien
Foreigners who traveled to the city of Medellín “in an irregular manner” were transferred to Migración Colombia offices to define their situation, the bulletin said. In addition to a group of 40 Haitians, including 11 minors, there are also Cubans, Venezuelans and Africans from Cameroon and the Ivory Coast.
The two public service buses in which they were traveling were intercepted by a police checkpoint in the department of Caldas, shortly before arriving in Medellín. The penultimate stop of a long and dangerous journey that began in the midst of the pandemic in the troubled department of Nariño, on the border with Ecuador.
From Medellín they planned to advance to the municipality of Turbo, in the Gulf of Urabá, to continue their route to Panama by boat or through the dense Darien jungle, according to what Migración Colombia indicated.