The migration crisis in the Darien jungle has reached a critical point and Panama announced measures to address it, including the elimination of checkpoints in receiving communities and an increase in deportations. Measures were also announced such as reducing the stay of some tourists from 90 to 15 days or increasing the financial thresholds to enter the country.
The migration crisis through the Darien jungle is “at the limit.” Those were the words of Panama’s Security Minister, Juan Manuel Pino, in a press conference in which new Government measures were announced to address the increase in the irregular flow of people across the country’s southern border.
“Logically, we are already at the limit of our capabilities because the overflow of people is already massive,” Pino said, pointing out that the country has 350,000 irregular migrants who have crossed the dangerous jungle from Colombia to Panama so far this year. 2023 —this is more than all the crossings in 2022—. Many people cross this border, one of the most dangerous in the world, in precarious conditions on their way to the north of the American continent.
Given this scenario, Samira Gozaine, director of the Immigration Institute of Panama, announced a series of decisions with which they will seek to deal with the increase in irregular arrivals in Panamanian territory.
One of the measures will be the elimination of checkpoints and immigration assistance in some of the border municipalities, which are the first to receive migrants. “We are going to remove the checkpoints and migratory assistance from the receiving communities of Bajo Chiquito and Canaan Membrillo. This in order to mitigate the health and safety impact that exists within those communities. Communities of 200 to 300 people that are receiving an impact of 3,000 to 4,000 people per day,” Gozaine reported.
In addition, the country’s authorities announced that they will increase deportations of people with criminal records and also flights to repatriate irregular migrants.
“The expulsions and deportations of irregular citizens and with criminal records will continue, with the support of Senan flights. Flights will triple if possible”, said the director of the Immigration Institute of Panama.
On the other hand, the Government said that it will reinforce surveillance and control at the country’s entry points and also maritime patrols, in search of intercepting ships of illegal organizations that are dedicated to human trafficking.
Reduction from 90 to 15 days of stay for some tourists
One of the measures that has caused the most confusion was the announcement of the reduction from 90 to 15 days of stay for some tourists within the country.
“We are going to reduce the tourism period from 90 days to 15 days (it is not for all people and nationalities), it is according to the profiling,” Gozaine stated. However, she did not specify what would be taken into account to determine which people should spend a shorter period of time in the country.
Samira Gozaine, director of @migracionpanamaannounced the new immigration measures that Panama will implement.
The tourism period will be reduced from 90 to 15 days, “not for all nationalities and according to the profiling”, and economic solvency of a thousand dollars and up will be required. pic.twitter.com/jHoFdG4b75
— Telemeter Reporta (@TReporta) September 8, 2023
What was specified at the press conference is that the country will increase the financial thresholds at its checkpoints. Thus, people who want to stay 90 days in Panama must present proof of funds of at least $1,000, instead of the $500 that was previously stipulated.
Perception across the border
The migratory crisis in the Darien has faced positions between Panama and Colombia. The Government of Laurentino Cortizo has requested greater control from that of Gustavo Petro. But the Colombian president has assured that the current situation responds to structural causes.
In fact, on Thursday he assured in his X account that to solve the crisis it is necessary to “unlock Venezuela economically.”
If we really want to stop the humanitarian disaster of the exodus through the Darien, we must unblock Venezuela economically.
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) September 8, 2023
On the Panamanian side, more measures are predicted. Next week, representatives from that country will join those from Costa Rica to take a “tour” through Darien and announce other control actions.
Unicef assures that the crossings this year could be more than 400,000 and has expressed its concern about the “multiple violations and abuses” faced by migrants who cross the Darien Gap.
On Thursday, Unicef reported that at least 40,000 minors crossed the dangerous border crossing in the first half of 2023. Of the total, half would have been children under five years of age.
With Reuters, EFE and local media
Source: France 24