The new government reiterates to the UN representative that it wants to 'reduce the flow of migrants' through the Darién jungle - Expat Community

The new government reiterates to the UN representative that it wants to ‘reduce the flow of migrants’ through the Darién jungle

May 24, 2024 | News & Articles, Panama | 0 comments

by EFE

The elected Government of Panama expressed to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) of the United Nations on Thursday that it lacks the resources to manage the high flow of irregular migrants arriving in the country through the Darién jungle, its border with Colombia, and will push for measures such as repatriation.

“We do not have the resources to handle this number of illegal migrants, and we made this known to the IOM. They understand, and we are very pleased to be able to work together to reduce” this flow during the government of Panama’s president-elect, José Raúl Mulino, said the designated Minister of Foreign Affairs, Javier Martínez-Acha, to journalists.

According to data from the outgoing government of President Laurentino Cortizo, the migration crisis has cost the Central American country around $70 million in recent years. Panama receives travelers at stations where they are provided with food, health services, and biometric data collection.

Martínez-Acha and other ministers designated by Mulino met in Panama City on Thursday with IOM Director General Amy Pope to discuss the migration crisis. In 2023, over 520,000 people transited through Panama on their way to North America, an unprecedented number.

However, the magnitude of the migratory flow, with nearly 160,000 people having crossed the dangerous jungle border so far this year, raises fears that up to 800,000 irregular travelers could reach Panama in 2024, as UNICEF warned.

The designated foreign minister told journalists that Mulino’s proposed “philosophical concept” of closing the border “was not discussed” with Pope. However, he emphasized that Panama wants to “reduce the flow of migrants.”

“Of course, there will be illegal migrants, but the numbers we are seeing now are unbearable; we cannot manage these figures. President Mulino is committed to reducing this flow, and ideally, it would be to close the border, but in such a porous border, it is very difficult. We will fight for that,” commented Martínez-Acha.

In this regard, he reiterated Mulino’s announcement to massively repatriate migrants who cross the Darién, “so that those over there and those who want to come know that whoever arrives here will be returned to their country of origin,” as the elected president explained earlier in May.

“Yes, we will have the support of different countries to bear the cost of this repatriation,” assured Panama’s designated foreign minister. He detailed that during the meeting with Pope, “emphasis was placed on defending Panamanian interests from every point of view, security, of course, health,” and that they want to “involve countries of origin, transit -like Panama- and destination in the solutions.”

“Panama and our Darién are not a transit route. No sir, that is our border. The concept of closure that I have outlined implies a philosophical concept related to closing the border with the help of international aid, starting a repatriation process in full compliance with human rights,” said Mulino when he was proclaimed president-elect on May 9.

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