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Emergency Tracking: COVID19 Pandemic Migrant Receiving Stations (MRS) Situation Report #3, 10-16 April 2020, Panama

Situation Report
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2.522 Migrants sheltered at the MRS

215% Overcapacity in Stations nationwide

85 Pregnant women

27% Children and adolescents under 17

4 Unaccompanied children and adolescents under 17

1 Station enabled for treatment of COVID-19 patients

20 cases of COVID19 have been identified by community transmission in Darien

No reported arrivals of migrants in Bajo Chiquito since March 29, 2020

Transit population is not ruled out through the Darien National Park


The information in this report is collected by IOM Panama staff in Darién and Chiriquí, through field monitoring, multi-sectoral assessments through key informants, as well as regular information exchange at the technical level, and at the central level of the United Nations Inter-Agency Group on Human Mobility.


The Darien region has been characterized as one of the most important points of transit for extra-regional migrants for the past eleven years. However, the Darien region is characterized as one of the most challenging for Panama's socio- economic development; a situation that increases the complexity of dealing with massive and irregular migration flows.

Since 2009, significant extra-regional migration flows have been identified, that is, migrants from other continents, such as Africa, Asia and the Caribbean region, specifically Haitians and Cubans.

In 2016, the first migration crisis from extra-regionals occurred in the Darien region, strongly impacted by the closing of borders in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Faced with all this mobility, the governments of Panama and Costa Rica established a binational agreement that would guarantee the orderly, regular and safe transit of these migrants through the territory.

In addition to these facts, on March 11th 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a state of pandemic for the COVID19 virus, which is why global sanitary measures were established in order to mitigate the contagion. Central America, responded by shutting its borders or by modifying its border management policies, as well as launching massive hygiene campaigns.

The application of these measures implied changes in the mobility of migrants transiting through Panama.

The Government of Panama decreed a state of emergency as of March 12, 2020, as a result of related measures that have been taken, many operations have been affected, particularly Operation Controlled Flow. For its part, the Government of Costa Rica declared a state of national emergency throughout its territory as of 16 March 2020.

As a result, the border between Panama and Costa Rica is presumed to be closed for at least another month, due to the health regulations of the Government of Costa Rica. So far there are at least 1,900 migrants stranded in the province of Darien, mostly in La Peñita Migrant Reception Station (MRS), the community of Bajo Chiquito, and 500 in MRS Los Planes in the province of Chiriqui.

Since March 24 the country has been under mandatory quarantine, with operation of basic services and with average functionality of the state apparatus. Circulation has been restricted by day, according to gender, and by hour, according to the final number of the identity card (foreigners use their passport number). In addition, the government announced the delivery of food commodity exchanges and the subsequent delivery of a solidarity bond within the Panama Plan Solidarity. Regularized migrants, who carry identity cards will be beneficiaries of the Plan (more information at www. As of April 16, Panama has with 4,016 confirmed cases and a total of 109 deaths. Between April 14 and April 15, and as a result of the rapid increase in cases (more than 100) at the provincial level, an epidemiological fence was declared in the province of Darien.

At the time of writing, the Community transmission of COVID-19 in the MRS La Peñita in Darien. 20 positive cases were confirmed and 46 segregated by COVID-19 infection in La Peñita, which were moved to the MRS located in Lajas Blancas, which will be assisting positive or suspicious cases. As of 16 April, 115 cases have been reported in the province of Darien, both in officials of the National Border Service (SENAFRONT for its acronym in Spanish) and the National Migration Service (NMS) as in migrants and members of the host communities. As a result of this situation, there has been a decline in the field presence of units for the control and protection of and key staff and partners who support the work of humanitarian assistance. In the province of Chiriquí, as of April 16, 78 positive cases have been reported, none in the MRS of Los Planes.