2023 ends with “Immigration” being the biggest problem for Panama. PNO has been all over this.

The Panama Immigration Directorate reported that until December 15, it counted 509 thousand people who entered Panama heading north. In the United States, one of the preferred destinations, the immigration issue is a source of debate and pressure between Congress and the White House

Panama closes 2023 with another record number in terms of migrant transit: more than half a million people crossed the Darién jungle to reach the United States, their destination, according to figures from the Panama Migration Directorate. Of them, approximately 20% are minors or adolescents traveling without a companion.

The entity reported that until December 15 it counted 509,007 migrants, which indicates that in the last three years migratory behavior doubles that of the previous year. This is how in 2022 the Immigration Directorate registered 248,284 migrants, but a year before there were a little more than 133 thousand (see table). The figures reveal a very different reality from the campaign promoted by the Panamanian authorities, “Darién is not a route”, which sought to discourage passage through that route, where it is still not known with certainty how many people have died along the way. When the migrants arrive in Bajo Chiquito, the first town on the Panamanian side that they set foot in, they are heard saying that they saw corpses of fathers, mothers, children or babies who did not manage to finish the journey.

As has been the constant, Venezuela is the nationality that dominates the classification of origin with 324,436, followed by Ecuador (55,714), Haiti (45,135), Colombia (18,292). While Asians have begun to rebound in the statistics. This year there were more than 39 thousand who entered, especially by boat on the Pacific route, whose journey seeks to avoid the danger of the Darien jungle.

August was the month with the highest transit with a little more than 81 thousand migrants, followed by September with 75 thousand, while in July 55 thousand passed through Panama. While the month in which the fewest migrants entered was January with 24,634. These monthly figures (2023), compared to the flow of migrants for the entire year 2010, for example, are exorbitant taking into account that on that date the number of travelers totaled 1,578.

The uncertainty that migrants experience when they cross the most hellish part of the journey, the Darién jungle, continues on their journey through Central America until they reach Mexico, where they must wait months, sometimes up to a year, to enter the United States using the application. immigration of that country. A form that can be downloaded to your cell phone and that allows you to verify the applicant’s case online. The complaint, however, is the time it takes for US authorities to respond to requests, hundreds of thousands of which accumulate, but which allow for a safe and orderly process at the ports of entry to that country.

The immigration issue is one of the most debated and controversial in the North, to the extent that the US Congress is conditioning the White House on military aid for Ukraine and Israel, and other national security issues, in exchange for toughening immigration measures. migration for those who cross the southern border irregularly.

These include an agreement to implement new restrictions for asylum applications, examine the policy for granting humanitarian permits and/or increase deportations. However, once the immigrant manages to cross the border, there is no guarantee of achieving the desired American dream. Many times they do not have a safe place to sleep and end up on the streets in makeshift tents. The stay in hotels is limited and when it ends there is no guarantee that they will get a bed elsewhere. This year, New York will end the policy of housing any migrant indefinitely and gave those who have been in shelters for a long time to leave them within 60 days. New York City owes more than $130 million to 110 hotels it has used as shelters for more than a year.

In 2023, the immigration issue generated tension in diplomatic relations between Colombia and Panama that have not yet been completely overcome. The second still alleges that his neighbor does not send information on the number of people leaving Necolí or other border points in Colombia heading to Panama. Another demand consisted of the poor efforts of Colombians to minimize transit through the dangerous jungle.

The claim of the Panamanian authorities to their Colombian counterparts is mainly due to the responsibility that the countries affected by irregular transit must abide by. Colombia, as a neighbor, “should address organized crime on that side of the jungle, which requires making decisions at the highest level,” said Migration Director Samira Gozaine, repeatedly. For their part, the Colombian authorities continue to defend that they cannot control the flows of people leaving for Panama because the border is extremely porous and sometimes people go into the jungle for days, without being able to have a precise record, he said. In a previous interview with La Estrella de Panamá, Fernando García, director of Migration of Colombia.

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