Panama

Panamá CO: Situation Report - Migration flow affected by national protests (20 July 2022)

Attachments

48,430 People in transit who have entered through the Darién Jungle on their way north (January to June 2022, Source: SNM).

7,282 Number of migrant children and adolescents who entered Panama through the border with Colombia (January to June 2022, compared to 4,366 from January to June 2021, Source: SNM.)

+170 Number of unaccompanied or separated children and adolescents who have entered Panama through the border with Colombia (January to June 2022, Darién Child Protection Committee)

+ 6,500 Migrants whose transit has been affected and are stranded at the ERM due to the national protest in Panama.Days of blockade on the Pan-American Highway that affected the controlled flow of migrants.

Highlights

According to the National Migration Service (SNM in spanish) of Panama, during the year 2022, 48,430 people have transited through the dangerous migration route of the Darien Jungle, this includes 7,282 (15%) children and adolescents. 58% of migrants are from Venezuela, followed by 7.9% from Haiti, 5.2% from Cuba, 3.3% from Ecuador and 3.2% from Senegal, among other 50 nationalities. Since May 2022, there has been an increase in migration with an average entry of 300 to 500 people per day. In addition to the complexity of transiting through a dense jungle, migrants are exposed to assault, physical violence, and sexual violence. From January to June, more than 170 cases of unaccompanied and separated children have been identified. In the last semester, pressure from the public forces to prevent the illegal transport of migrants have led to the use of new routes through the communities of Carreto, Anachucuna and Armila form the Guna Yala region.

On July 7, teachers' unions, labor unions, and social and community-based organizations took to the streets throughout the country demanding the national government to immediately adopt a series of measures to guarantee a cap on fuel prices, reduction of prices of the basic food basket, access to medicines with prices adjusted to the purchasing power of the popular sectors, as well as the call for an efficient and transparent use of public funds. Protesters closed the Pan-American Highway, blocking the main roads and avenues of the capital city and other major cities, leading to the closure of schools and limiting access to services (public transportation, gas, energy, garbage collection, among others), while the food supply to the capital and other regions of the country collapsed. Despite the efforts of the National Government to implement a dialogue mechanism, the protests have continued, and no consensus has been achieved. Faced with this situation, the UN has made a call to strengthen dialogues through peaceful mechanisms and achieve an agreement.

The road closures have led to the temporary suspension of the transit of migrants from the Province of Darien (Border of Colombia and Panama) to the Province of Chiriqui (Border with Costa Rica). Since July 11 no buses have transported migrants to the border with Costa Rica due to prior clashes with the protesters while transporting the migrant population.

Due to the closure of the Pan-American highway, the Migration Reception Station (ERM in spanish) of San Vicente in the Province of Darien (with a maximum capacity of 250 people), has sheltered more than 900 people in mobility, some for several days, exceeding the capacity by more than 300%.

Due to the overcrowding of the ERM of San Vicente and the continous transit of 300 to 500 people on average per day through the jungle, the Panamanian State proceeded to temporarily reopen the ERM of Lajas Blancas (with a capacity of 500 people, located in the Province of Darien).

The ERM has now sheltered migrants exceeding its capacity and having up to 1,231 people in one day. Canaan Membrillo, an indigenous community (Comarca Embera Wounaan) and main entry point for migrants is made up of 350 inhabitants. It has a capacity to shelter up to 100 migrants, nevertheless in the past week it has received more than 3,300 people awaiting mobilization by boat to Puerto Limon and later to the ERM of San Vicente or Lajas Blancas. The SNM has guaranteed access to food in the ERM.

Given the uncertainty of the reopening of the roads and the overcrowding conditions of the ERM, several groups of migrants, including families, have decided to continue their route on foot to Panama City, abandoning the controlled migration flow coordinated by the State; locals have shown solidarity by providing water and food. As of July 16 more than 4,600 migrants were stuck in the Darien, the authorities responsible opted to negotiate with the leaders of the various roadblocks to establish a humanitarian corridor and prevent the buses from being attacked. This strategy has allowed more than 4,268 migrants to be transported safely in buses to the border with Costa Rica, taking an average of 36 to 48 hours to arrive when the normal time is 12 hours.

To date, UNICEF and its implementing partners report shortages of food, fuel, gasoline, and cash, as well as power outages, and disruption in telephone and water service in the Darien, this coupled with the indefinite closure of schools and roads. For the migrant population in the ERM and the host communities, the power outages and lack of fuel have affected the daily operation of the water treatment plants. Humanitarian operations have been affecting, leading to the inability to re-stock pre-positioned hygiene kits, over capacity of latrines with no possibility to bring in more from the capital, inability to recharge cell phones to contact with their families, and the lack of available cash in the province has mean migrants are not able to receive money orders to pay for the bus fare and access the humanitarian corridor.

Despite overcrowding and the hardship conditions, the migrant population at the ERMs expressed their understanding of the complex situation in Panama and have allowed the humanitarian teams to continue the provision of basic services, such as water, hygiene, sanitation, health, and child protection.