CDA issue brief on Panama’s role in regional migration management

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CDA Deputy Director María José Espinosa

WASHINGTON, USA – The Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) on March 01, 2022, released an issue brief which shares key findings and recommendations from a CDA mission to the Republic of Panama, where an estimated 140,000 refugees and migrants transited in 2021 in an attempt to reach North America.

CDA’s objective was to understand how Panama is contending with the challenges arising from this unprecedented number of people transiting through the country, after emerging from the jungle of the Darién Gap, a journey fraught with violence and hardship including robbery, sexual violence, and death.

CDA deputy director María José Espinosa released the following statement: 

“To understand migration patterns and correlating humanitarian needs in the Americas, it is critical to look toward Panama; it is literally the geographical bottleneck and harbinger of migratory movements heading north to the United States and, to a lesser degree, to Canada.

“Refugees and migrants are exposed to horrors in the Darién Gap for which they need medical assistance and humanitarian services that extend well beyond their transit through Panama,” Espinosa warns.

“The government of Panama has provided some basic humanitarian assistance, but the weight of the crisis far outstrips the capacity of Panamanian and humanitarian authorities on the ground. Their efforts need to be bolstered by support from the US government, the United Nations (UN), and international financial institutions. Such support must be crafted and delivered in close collaboration with host communities.”

CDA also urges all governments in the region to align around a common goal of promoting safe, orderly and regular migration. Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, CDA’s Refugee and Migration expert, added:

“The transit of refugees and migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa, and the Middle East does not only represent a significant challenge for Panama; it is a region-wide challenge. Any hemispheric migration agreement must consider the unique position in which Panama finds itself and ensure that Panama is supported as it provides relief to people on the move who are highly vulnerable.”

The brief details recommendations for addressing the humanitarian need at Panama’s borders; addressing violence in the Darién Gap; supporting Panama to welcome and integrate refugees and migrants; and providing humanitarian aid along the migratory route.

It may be accessed here.

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