LatinNews Daily - 12 April 2023

PANAMA: High level meeting with US and Colombia on migration

On 11 April Panama’s foreign minister, Janaina Tewaney, held a high-level meeting with Colombia’s Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva and US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in Panama City to discuss joint efforts to address irregular migration.


This is the latest high-level meeting regarding the surge in irregular migration through the Darién Gap, a dense jungle in Panama bordering Colombia, through which tens of thousands of migrants attempt to cross en route to the US. The meeting, which comes less than two months after officials from the three countries met in Colombia, saw the launch of a two-month coordinated campaign which, according to a trilateral joint statement, “aims to end the illicit movement of people… through the Darién and open new lawful… pathways for tens of thousands of migrants and refugees”.

  • A trilateral joint statement, which did not provide specifics as to how the governments would attempt to curb migration, also outlines other goals including the launch of a plan to “reduce poverty, improve public service delivery, create jobs, and promote economic and sustainable opportunities in border communities in northern Colombia and southern Panama, through international partnerships across financial institutions, civil society, and the private sector”.
  • Panama has yet to publish March data regarding migration through the Darién Gap but a report published on 6 April by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows 49,291 people crossed the Darién Gap in the first two months of 2023, five times the number of those who arrived during the same period in 2022.
  • According to the same report, nearly 250,000 people crossed irregularly through the Darién in 2022. Authorities estimate that by the end of 2023, some 400,000 people will have made the crossing.
  • The Darién migrant crisis continues to be met with international cooperation efforts. Last year US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Panama where he met Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo, signed a bilateral accord on migration, and co-hosted a ministerial conference on migration, while regional summits have addressed the crisis in recent years.

Looking Ahead: The renewed push to tackle illegal migration through the Darién Gap comes as Title 42 – a measure allowing US authorities to rapidly expel asylum-seeking migrants of certain nationalities to Mexico – is due to expire next month, prompting fresh speculation regarding a further surge in migration northwards.

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