Security & Strategic Review - April 2024

PANAMA: Order to halt migrant aid raises eyebrows

In early March Panama’s government led by President Laurentino Cortizo ordered international humanitarian NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to stop all medical activities for migrants arriving in the south of the country after crossing the perilous Darién Gap, a roadless expanse of jungle on Panama’s border with Colombia. The announcement comes amid a public clash between the government and the NGO over a rise in reports of sexual violence through the crossing, which serves as a key corridor for migrants seeking to reach the US, and has seen a massive increase in migration in recent years [SSR-23-35]. It also drew particular criticism amid reports of the parlous situation facing those attempting the crossing, who are preyed upon by criminal groups.

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