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[Illegal] Migration at the Panama-Colombia Border


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This topic is closely related to another topic here on CL, but we are opting to keep them separate. Please refer to http://www.chiriqui.life/topic/11782-the-presidents-of-panama-and-costa-rica-have-a-pow-wow-at-the-panamonte for related information.

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25 minutes ago, BD said:

No protests by Panamanians about how this is being handled?

"The arrival of migrants to Puerto Obaldia will be managed in a professional manner, the health and humanitarian issue will be seen. The sovereignty of our country will be respected."

That's a quote from the Director of Immigration. He's a Panamanian. Seems like they're on top of this.

Edited by Keith Woolford
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Regarding "open borders" people routinely refer to the open border of The Netherlands and Belgium which are two first world nonviolent countries as depicted in the attached photo.  An open border betw

Panama does not have an open border with Colombia. It has the nearly impenetrable Darien Jungle to serve as a barrier. The referenced travelers were handled by Panamanian Migration, MINSA, and SI

Well, these 'travelers' have no desire to declare themselves refugees in Panama so your point is invalid, apart from demonstrating that you're personally biased against migration ..excepting your own,

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Hundreds of Cuban migrants are stranded in the border area of Panama

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 09:27

cuba.jpg

Hundreds of Cuban migrants seeking to reach the north of the Americas are stranded in the border area of Panama, whose security authorities are meeting to discuss the matter, said to Acan-Efe on Tuesday official sources.

Local television Telemetro showed on Tuesday images of migrants who are in the border area with Colombia and demand Panamanian authorities to let them pass to continue their journey to the north of the continent.

The Cubans, who could surpass the thousand according to the journalists sources, are in the localities of Puerto Obaldía, La Miel and Armigas, in the region Guna Yala, border with Colombia.

Official sources consulted by Acan-Efe assured that the security organizations were meeting on Tuesday to analyze the situation, and that they are expected to issue a statement.

They added that personnel from the Ministry of Health and the National Immigration Service are also involved in measures to address the situation on the border.

The Health Minister, Miguel Mayo, told local media on Tuesday that his office has doubled the human resources in Puerto Obaldía to provide medical care to 600 migrants who are there.

"People have to understand that we have to take care of them because they are human beings and by attending and vaccinating them we also protect our population", said the minister, and confirmed that so far two cases of malaria have been detected among migrants.

Thousands of Cubans in transit to the United States were stranded between the end of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 in Panama and Costa Rica, which managed to evacuate them through a special operation that had the support of Mexico.

The bottleneck in the countries of entry to Central America from the south of the continent occurred as a result of the decision of Nicaragua, in November 2015, to close its border.

However, thousands of illegal Caribbean and extracontinental migrants, from African and Asian countries, on their way to the United States, continue to arrive in Central America with the help of nets of human traffickers.

 

https://www.panamatoday.com/panama/hundreds-cuban-migrants-are-stranded-border-area-panama-9233

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From Facebook (and also distributed via Twitter, but with a political spin added), dated February 12, 2019.

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30 thousand immigrants are entering panama right now. At this point they have reached the border between Panama and Colombia. They went through the jungle. It is a migrant caravan composed of Haitians, Venezuelans, Africans and Cubans. They wish to arrive usa through central America and Mexico.

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  • Moderator_02 changed the title to Migration Situation at the Panama-Colombia Border, February 2019

 

1 hour ago, Brundageba said:

It's hard to imagine 30,000 people there in the jungle marching into Panama.   How are they eating, sleeping and taking care of basic needs?  That's an entire city of people.

It’s hard to imagine because the referenced posts are B.S.  Check the source.

Sounds like the same type of alarmist propaganda reporting in the U.S. that has massive, imaginary, migrant caravans passing through Central America and Mexico.

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Ok so it looks like a Facebooker took a real news report from Telemetro of over 700 Cubans  and Haitians at the Panama border with Colombia  en-route to ( apparently) the USA and exaggerated the number to 30,000 people in this migration.  Panama definitely does not want to be stuck with them so the talks with Colombia and Costa Rica are now occurring so as to try to figure out what to do with these people. 

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On 2/16/2019 at 8:42 AM, Moderator_02 said:

From Facebook (and also distributed via Twitter, but with a political spin added), dated February 12, 2019.

CL administrators have a policy of not posting content for others. We have had some exceptions. This posting was against our better judgement but we got talked into doing it. Now regret it, but will leave it posted.

It seems there may have been an agenda going on in the background.

Live and learn.

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On 2/16/2019 at 9:13 AM, Keith Woolford said:

 

It’s hard to imagine because the referenced posts are B.S.  Check the source.

Sounds like the same type of alarmist propaganda reporting in the U.S. that has massive, imaginary, migrant caravans passing through Central America and Mexico.

 

I have friend who was born and raised in McAllen, Texas, a US/Mexican border town, that for the safety of his family relocated to another state within the US due to the horrendous amount of crime committed by illegals.

 

And for the record, he's of Mexican decent, bilingual, and a retired US Army Ranger.  In addition, I asked him to assist me with my move to Panama by driving with me in my SUV.  He stated that due to the crime rate in Mexico and the fact that if something happened you'd receive zero assistance from the police, not a chance.

 

Keep in mind the population of the US is 2.5 times that of Mexico yet Mexico has twice the number of murders annually.  Let that sink in.

 

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1 hour ago, Siempre Soluciones said:

 

I have friend who was born and raised in McAllen, Texas, a US/Mexican border town, that for the safety of his family relocated to another state within the US due to the horrendous amount of crime committed by illegals.

 

And for the record, he's of Mexican decent, bilingual, and a retired US Army Ranger.  In addition, I asked him to assist me with my move to Panama by driving with me in my SUV.  He stated that due to the crime rate in Mexico and the fact that if something happened you'd receive zero assistance from the police, not a chance.

 

Keep in mind the population of the US is 2.5 times that of Mexico yet Mexico has twice the number of murders annually.  Let that sink in.

 

I fail to see the connection here.

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28 minutes ago, Keith Woolford said:

I fail to see the connection here.

 

Regarding "open borders" people routinely refer to the open border of The Netherlands and Belgium which are two first world nonviolent countries as depicted in the attached photo.  An open border between a violent and nonviolent country is a recipe for disaster.

 

I believe we can agree that Panama is a nonviolent country when compared to Colombia as is the United States when compared to Mexico.

 

A friend of mine who has lived on and off in Mexico informed me that it's routine to see dead people hanging from nooses on highway overpasses in Mexico.

 

 

nl belgium border .jpg

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Panama does not have an open border with Colombia. It has the nearly impenetrable Darien Jungle to serve as a barrier.

The referenced travelers were handled by Panamanian Migration, MINSA, and SINAPROC.  None of them are citizens of 'violent' Colombia.

"The arrival of migrants to Puerto Obaldia will be managed in a professional manner, the health and humanitarian issue will be seen. The sovereignty of our country will be respected."

That's a quote from the Director of Immigration. He's a Panamanian. Seems like they're on top of this.

Judging by the lack of local press coverage since, the situation doesn't seem to be an issue with Panamanians. 

Edited by Keith Woolford
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1 hour ago, Keith Woolford said:

Panama does not have an open border with Colombia. It has the nearly impenetrable Darien Jungle to serve as a barrier.

The referenced travelers were handled by Panamanian Migration, MINSA, and SINAPROC.  None of them are citizens of 'violent' Colombia.

"The arrival of migrants to Puerto Obaldia will be managed in a professional manner, the health and humanitarian issue will be seen. The sovereignty of our country will be respected."

That's a quote from the Director of Immigration. He's a Panamanian. Seems like they're on top of this.

Judging by the lack of local press coverage since, the situation doesn't seem to be an issue with Panamanians. 

 

Keith,

 

You're 100% correct, Panama doesn't have an open border with Colombia.  However, the precedent has been set in the US that could possibly become pragmatic here in Panama.  Honduran nationals are being granted asylum in the US based on the fact that life is better in the US.  There are some people stating that the situation in Honduras is on the scale of what happened during the Nazi era in Germany.  From what I've read I would opine that that is simply not the case.

 

Here's where the problem lies for us here in Panama.  Honduran's seek asylum to the US since life, the standard of living, is better than in Honduras.  What's next?  Hondurans then determine that the standard of living is better in Switzerland so for humanitarians sake Switzerland should allow them to seek asylum?

 

Where does it end?

 

Life is great here in Panama, I think everyone here would agree.  Could Panama absorb limitless "refugees" from both Central and South America?

 

 

 

 

 

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You're 100% correct, Panama doesn't have an open border with Colombia.  However, the precedent has been set in the US that could possibly become pragmatic here in Panama.  Honduran nationals are being granted asylum in the US based on the fact that life is better in the US.  There are some people stating that the situation in Honduras is on the scale of what happened during the Nazi era in Germany.  From what I've read I would opine that that is simply not the case.

Here's where the problem lies for us here in Panama.  Honduran's seek asylum to the US since life, the standard of living, is better than in Honduras.  What's next?  Hondurans then determine that the standard of living is better in Switzerland so for humanitarians sake Switzerland should allow them to seek asylum?

Where does it end?

Life is great here in Panama, I think everyone here would agree.  Could Panama absorb limitless "refugees" from both Central and South America?

Well, these 'travelers' have no desire to declare themselves refugees in Panama so your point is invalid, apart from demonstrating that you're personally biased against migration ..excepting your own, of course.

Myself, I''m just passing on pertinent information.

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United Nations recognizes Panama's effort to serve migrants

  • Sat, 02/16/2019 - 22:59

The United Nations System in Panama recognized this Saturday the effort of the national government to meet the humanitarian needs of migrants arriving from Colombia and invited the authorities to "maintain these actions that they extol the country's commitment to human rights and international law".

This recognition to Panama arises from the latest reports on the increase of mixed flows and movements of people of different nationalities to Puerto Obaldía and nearby communities in the province of Darién, bordering Colombia.

"The respect and protection of the rights of migrants is paramount, and applies to those who are within the national territory, whatever their nationality or immigration status, without any discrimination, in order to preserve their safety, physical integrity, well-being and dignity", the UN system in Panama said in a statement.

The delegations of the UN in Panama assure that this is a basic principle to achieve that, with the adoption of complementary actions, the migration is of benefit for all.

In the same way, it is recalled that if there are people with international protection needs, they have the right to access the asylum system to determine their refugee status and access the corresponding rights.

"From the United Nations System in Panama, we applaud the decision of the Panamanian government to work jointly with the Colombian authorities to ensure that these mixed movements of people occur in a safe, orderly and regular manner, and in compliance with international law", says the statement.

The UN system emphasizes that it is attentive to support the government of Panama in the proper management of the challenges arising from these movements of people through its specialized agencies such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), among others.

Last weekend some 720 migrants seeking to reach the United States were intercepted by the Panamanian authorities in the Darién jungle and taken to a small shelter in the coastal town of Puerto Obaldía.

According to the Panamanian authorities, 57% of these stranded migrants are of Cuban nationality, while the rest come from countries such as Haiti, Cameroon, Ghana, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The massive arrival of Cubans in 2015 and the closure of borders that Nicaragua ordered led to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in both Panama and Costa Rica.

The migratory wave was considered as a consequence of the melting of relations between Cuba and the United States and the end of the migratory benefits for the islanders in the North American country.

Source-EFE

https://www.panamatoday.com/panama/united-nations-recognizes-panamas-effort-serve-migrants-9272

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9 hours ago, Moderator_02 said:

CL administrators have a policy of not posting content for others. We have had some exceptions. This posting was against our better judgement but we got talked into doing it. Now regret it, but will leave it posted.

It seems there may have been an agenda going on in the background.

Live and learn.

I don't know what you mean by posting content "for" others. How is this different from posting stories from Newsroom Panama, La Prensa, etc.? But, in any event, the topic certainly is Panama related, and it served the important function of debunking false information. I'm of the view that it also generated some genuinely interesting and informative discussion, which is often the case when there is disagreement. Controversy and disagreement is not necessarily bad.

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United Nations recognizes Panama's effort to serve migrants

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 22:59

Caravana-Migrantes_13471464_0.jpg

The United Nations System in Panama recognized this Saturday the effort of the national government to meet the humanitarian needs of migrants arriving from Colombia and invited the authorities to "maintain these actions that they extol the country's commitment to human rights and international law".

This recognition to Panama arises from the latest reports on the increase of mixed flows and movements of people of different nationalities to Puerto Obaldía and nearby communities in the province of Darién, bordering Colombia.

"The respect and protection of the rights of migrants is paramount, and applies to those who are within the national territory, whatever their nationality or immigration status, without any discrimination, in order to preserve their safety, physical integrity, well-being and dignity", the UN system in Panama said in a statement.

The delegations of the UN in Panama assure that this is a basic principle to achieve that, with the adoption of complementary actions, the migration is of benefit for all.

In the same way, it is recalled that if there are people with international protection needs, they have the right to access the asylum system to determine their refugee status and access the corresponding rights.

"From the United Nations System in Panama, we applaud the decision of the Panamanian government to work jointly with the Colombian authorities to ensure that these mixed movements of people occur in a safe, orderly and regular manner, and in compliance with international law", says the statement.

The UN system emphasizes that it is attentive to support the government of Panama in the proper management of the challenges arising from these movements of people through its specialized agencies such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), among others.

Last weekend some 720 migrants seeking to reach the United States were intercepted by the Panamanian authorities in the Darién jungle and taken to a small shelter in the coastal town of Puerto Obaldía.

According to the Panamanian authorities, 57% of these stranded migrants are of Cuban nationality, while the rest come from countries such as Haiti, Cameroon, Ghana, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The massive arrival of Cubans in 2015 and the closure of borders that Nicaragua ordered led to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in both Panama and Costa Rica.

The migratory wave was considered as a consequence of the melting of relations between Cuba and the United States and the end of the migratory benefits for the islanders in the North American country.

 

https://www.panamatoday.com/panama/united-nations-recognizes-panamas-effort-serve-migrants-9272

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16 hours ago, Bonnie said:

I don't know what you mean by posting content "for" others. How is this different from posting stories from Newsroom Panama, La Prensa, etc.? But, in any event, the topic certainly is Panama related, and it served the important function of debunking false information. I'm of the view that it also generated some genuinely interesting and informative discussion, which is often the case when there is disagreement. Controversy and disagreement is not necessarily bad.

The words we posted in your referenced reply mean exactly what they say.

It is CL policy for community members wanting to post content to post their own information. That follows from the stated responsibility* of CL users: "The management team normally doesn’t post content for others (either members or guests); if you have something to post, then do so, and without cost, and if you need help, just ask."

The fact that CL staff posts news articles from selected media websites is content that CL staff itself wants to post on CL. Those postings follow from the stated purpose* for CL: " Think of CL as your [digital] homegrown, daily, self-published, neighborhood newspaper and community discussion forum targeting Chiriquí and its highlands region, principally Boquete." We intended from the very beginning of CL years ago to post news articles that we think are of interest to CL users, and so that is content that CL adds.

With one exception, CL staff does not use social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc., and so content from those social media would, by policy, be posted by a CL member who wants to share content from other media. The one exception is that CL staff does use Twitter, but normally not to find content to post on CL rather for personal reasons unrelated to life in Boquete.

The sequence of events in CL staff having posted content in this thread from Facebook was that we were approached by a CL member who is well known in our community with a request to post the content. We declined. That member then countered with some "reasons" why she couldn't post right then and that it was critical information related to other content on CL. We relented. We ended up regretting our exception. QED.

We hope our CL users understand our normal operating procedure.

 

*For those wishing to read our published website overview and guidance, Click Here.

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Nearly $9 million approved for migrant shelter

migrants.jpg
 
Posted 17/02/2019
 
Shortly after being praised by UN officials for its approach to migrants stranded in Darién. Panama’s government  through a Cabinet Council "exceptional procedure", has approved  the construction of a migration shelter in the Metetí, district of the province

The Official Gazette, published, the direct contractual agreement between the Ministry of Public Security and the Constructora Urbana, SA (CUSA), for the design, and construction of the shelter, is for an amount of $8 954.830.

The shelter will have administrative offices for 50 officials with dormitory spaces to house 400 migrants, control booth, clinic, perimeter fence, bathrooms, kitchen, laundry, and recreational area.

It will also have monitoring towers, an electric generator, a drinking water treatment plant, and a wastewater treatment plant.

Recently, about 716 irregular migrants entered Panama to the communities of Puerto Obaldía and La Miel, in the Guna Yala region reports TVN Noticias

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/nearly-9-million-approved-for-migrant-shelter

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42 minutes ago, Moderator_02 said:

The words we posted in your referenced reply mean exactly what they say.

It is CL policy for community members wanting to post content to post their own information. That follows from the stated responsibility* of CL users: "The management team normally doesn’t post content for others (either members or guests); if you have something to post, then do so, and without cost, and if you need help, just ask."

The fact that CL staff posts news articles from selected media websites is content that CL staff itself wants to post on CL. Those postings follow from the stated purpose* for CL: " Think of CL as your [digital] homegrown, daily, self-published, neighborhood newspaper and community discussion forum targeting Chiriquí and its highlands region, principally Boquete." We intended from the very beginning of CL years ago to post news articles that we think are of interest to CL users, and so that is content that CL adds.

With one exception, CL staff does not use social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc., and so content from those social media would, by policy, be posted by a CL member who wants to share content from other media. The one exception is that CL staff does use Twitter, but normally not to find content to post on CL rather for personal reasons unrelated to life in Boquete.

The sequence of events in CL staff having posted content in this thread from Facebook was that we were approached by a CL member who is well known in our community with a request to post the content. We declined. That member then countered with some "reasons" why she couldn't post right then and that it was critical information related to other content on CL. We relented. We ended up regretting our exception. QED.

We hope our CL users understand our normal operating procedure.

 

*For those wishing to read our published website overview and guidance, Click Here.

Thank you for the explanation, Bud. The origin of the post is now clear.

Can you explain why you ended up regretting having made an exception in this case?

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Bonnie,

It was an issue of "fake news" (as pointed out by Keith), with what we now perceive as a hidden political agenda by the requester.

BTW, we agree with your comment that the posting did result in a good interchange, probably because of differing opinions. Experience tells us it is okay (healthy!) to disagree as long as personal attacks don't become part of the dialogue.

Thanks to all. Have a great day!

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Migrants being Relocated

image.png.36a8a699916e15912dd0856f1a663a4f.png

In the next few hours, the health authorities will move to the area to verify their condition and if they are vaccinated. PHOTO / JOSÉ VÁSQUEZ

By: Jose Vásquez Chiriquí - Sunday February 17, 2019 12:00 AM

A group of Cubans and Africans who entered Panamanian territory by crossing the border with Darien were transported Saturday to the province of Chiriqui, confirmed a source from the Joint Task Force.

The Cuban migrants were transferred to the shelter located in the community of Los Planes in the district of Gualaca, province of Chiriqui. While the Africans were moved to the border area of Paso Canoas to continue their journey to the United States.

The source points out that there are not a number of Cubans transferred to the shelter, since this data is handled by the National Immigration Service, which must define the status of the illegals who entered through Colombia.

It is expected that in the next few hours the Ministry of Health (MINSA) will send personnel for the medical evaluations of each immigrant and confirm that everyone has the vaccines that are mandatory to have at the moment of entering Panama.

This is the third occasion that Gualaca facilities use to house Cuban migrants in Chiriqui. Last week, a significant number of Cuban and African migrants entered Panama, who asked to travel through Panama to reach Costa Rica and according to their passage to the United States.

https://www.critica.com.pa/provincias/trasladan-inmigrantes-541342

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22 hours ago, Moderator_02 said:

The words we posted in your referenced reply mean exactly what they say.

It is CL policy for community members wanting to post content to post their own information. That follows from the stated responsibility* of CL users: "The management team normally doesn’t post content for others (either members or guests); if you have something to post, then do so, and without cost, and if you need help, just ask."

The fact that CL staff posts news articles from selected media websites is content that CL staff itself wants to post on CL. Those postings follow from the stated purpose* for CL: " Think of CL as your [digital] homegrown, daily, self-published, neighborhood newspaper and community discussion forum targeting Chiriquí and its highlands region, principally Boquete." We intended from the very beginning of CL years ago to post news articles that we think are of interest to CL users, and so that is content that CL adds.

With one exception, CL staff does not use social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc., and so content from those social media would, by policy, be posted by a CL member who wants to share content from other media. The one exception is that CL staff does use Twitter, but normally not to find content to post on CL rather for personal reasons unrelated to life in Boquete.

The sequence of events in CL staff having posted content in this thread from Facebook was that we were approached by a CL member who is well known in our community with a request to post the content. We declined. That member then countered with some "reasons" why she couldn't post right then and that it was critical information related to other content on CL. We relented. We ended up regretting our exception. QED.

We hope our CL users understand our normal operating procedure.

 

*For those wishing to read our published website overview and guidance, Click Here.

Thanks, Bud. I was hoping that was what you meant. 🙂

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More than 25 migrant deaths  in Darien jungle

migrants.jpg

Posted 17/06/2019

At least 25 migrants whose bodies have been recovered have died as they attempt to follow the dangerous route from Colombia to Panama through the  Darien jungle since 2015 and this year  The figures do not include those who disappeared or drowned unseen in the fast flowing Turquoise river.

A report by the International Organization for Migration indicates that in Latin America and the Caribbean - where 1,000 migrant deaths are estimated between 2014 and 2018 - it is difficult to obtain reliable figures, particularly on the high seas or in remote jungle areas.

The official figures of the Ministry of Public Security say that  81.000 migrants traveled through the area, between 2015 and 2019, in their attempt to cross from Colombia to Panama through this dangerous route, to continue to their ultimate destination  Mexico, the United States or Canada.

 José Vicente Pachar, director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine  said  that there is  under the registration of deaths ."Obviously, that is a clandestine activity, so when a person dies  the body is abandoned and he dies, the person is abandoned and a body in the jungle breaks down in a matter of days."

When no one claims the body of the migrant, which is usually what happens, a burial of "solemnity" takes place. Last year six migrants who perished on their journey were buried, and this year there are four bodies still remain in the morgue.

"There are human remains of migrants in the jungle that have yet to be investigated. The magnitude of the problem exceeds our possibilities and we have begun conversations with the International Committee of the Red Cross, so that an international forensic team can verify the jungle. The ultimate goal is to identify these people and know the magnitude of the problem, "Pachar told La Prensa

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/more-than-25-migrant-deaths-in-darien-jungle

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  • Moderator_02 changed the title to Migration at the Panama-Colombia Border
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Moderator comment: It is recommended that readers interested in seeing the entire content of this article, including multimedia content that is embedded in this article, do so by clicking on the hotlink at the very bottom of this posting. That will take you directly to the originating website so that you can see all of the content as presented therein. It is extremely difficult to transfer this multimedia rich content with any degree of fidelity.

 

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Migrants face perilous passage through Panama in hopes of reaching US

06/24/2019

panama-migrants-enfer.jpg

Thousands of migrants travel through Central America each year in a bid to reach the United States. Antonio V., who left Angola in February, spoke to the Observers about his journey across Panama, where he encountered armed bandits, venomous snakes and roads littered with the bodies of those who didn’t make it.

More than 10,000 migrants crossed into Panama illegally from Colombia between January and May of this year, according to Panama’s national migration agency. Around 6,100 were from the Caribbean, primarily from Haiti and Cuba, roughly 2,400 hailed from Africa and around 1,800 from Asia.

"We came across a body that had been slashed early into our journey"

Antonio V., a member of the Seventh Day Light of the World church, said he left Angola to escape religious persecution. The Light of the World church, an offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, is considered a cult by authorities and was targeted by police during a 2015 raid that human rights activists say left 1,000 civilians dead.

Antonio V. and his family crossed into Namibia, where they boarded a plane to Havana, Cuba and then to Quito, Ecuador. He made his way to the Colombian border, which he crossed with the help of smugglers. In the port city of Turbo, he took a boat to Capurganá, located on the Panama border. That was where his journey turned into a nightmare, he said.

In Capurganá, a mafia-like gang run by a woman nicknamed "Mama Africa" charged each of us $125, or around €112, to take us across the Darién Gap and into Panama. [Editor’s note: Authorities have since arrested several members of this gang. Mama Africa appears at 3’42 in this report on the Spanish-language channel of France 24.]

Migrants stopped near Mama Africa’s home in Capurganá, Colombia, near the Panama border. (Video by Antonio V.)

The group resting near Capurganá, Colombia. (Video by Antonio V.)

A group of around 250 people began walking toward the forest. There were people from Mali, Cameroon, Senegal, Nepal and Eritrea. We soon came across a body that had been slashed. The journey was supposed to take three days, but after just a few hours, we reached a sign that said, “Welcome to Panama” and the gang left us there.

We had to continue the journey alone, traveling along forested paths for another two days. At one point, we came across Panamanian forest rangers. They told us how to get to a camp. It was close to the ocean and we were given food there. By that point, some of the travelers were exhausted and they decided to stop there.

The camp that Antonio V. stopped at was in Puerto Obaldía, a small town in Guna Yala province. It is one of many that migrants pass through in the Darien Gap.

A map of Antonio V.’s journey. Red indicates travel by plane, green travel across land and blue travel by boat.

The forest rangers whom Antonio V. met were likely border control agents, said Jorge Luis Ayala, an aid worker with Pastoral de Movilidad Humana, a Catholic organisation that provides aid to migrants.

The National Border Service, or Senafront, is the only agency that has the means to handle the influx of migrants. They are posted in several villages near the Colombian border and provide assistance. Normally, it's the National Migration Service that should handle it, but they don't have the means.

"We came upon four bandits, who killed a Congolese man"

Antonio V. said he left Puerto Obaldía the next morning, after being warned by border control agents that the road ahead was dangerous.

We saw several bodies along the path. One of the dead men was from Cameroon and had clearly been cut down with a machete. The blood from his wounds was still flowing. Then we saw the body of a Cuban man, who still had his papers on him. That scared us.

The next day, we had to climb what locals call the “mountains of the dead”. People told us that five people had died recently along this part of the route, including a pregnant woman. We were climbing for six hours, and there was lots of mud.

We then ran into four bandits carrying machetes and guns. They fired in the air and yelled at us to stop. There were about 40 or 50 of us at that point. They told us to give them everything we had. I gave them $100, or around €88, but they searched me and found $1,200, or around €1,050. A Congolese man tried to run and they shot and killed him. Our group started throwing stones at the bandits so they fired on us again. A Haitian man was hit in the back and two Congolese migrants were also wounded, including a boy who couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13 years old.

"A Congolese man died after being bitten by a snake"

A few hours later, we arrived at Bajo Chiquito in the Darien Gap, and the injured were taken to a hospital. We registered and were able to eat. But the only water we had was from the river, there was no medicine available and there were no showers or toilets so you just had to go out into the jungle. A Congolese man was bitten by a venomous snake while bathing in the river and died soon after.

We each had to pay three dollars, or around €2.60, o sleep in one of the homes on stilts. We ended up staying there for ten days because people told us the towns ahead of us were full.

A Congolese man who died from a snake bite was buried near Bajo Chiquito. (Video by Antonio V.)

"Migrants are traveling in the middle of the jungle"

Migrants often pay local indigenous residents to stay in their homes, Ayala said.

Many migrants say they would never have crossed the Darién Gap jungle if they had known what it would be like. They are traveling in the middle of the jungle, and around 80% of the province of Darién doesn’t have access to running water. Many communities don’t have health centres or schools. The migrants get only the most basic accommodation because that’s how the locals live.

Cuban migrants aboard a truck in Bajo Chiquito. (Video by Antonio V.)

Antonio V. said he and 16 other migrants eventually each paid a driver five dollars, or around €4.40, to take them to the capital. But the driver dropped them off after just 40 minutes in a camp, likely the one in Lajas Blancas.

We traveled another 2.5 hours on foot to Peñita, still in Darién. This time, aid organisations, including HIAS, helped us register and gave us food and sleeping mats. But we had to buy water and there were no toilets. Several children had diarrhea and many of them were pale. There was only one police officer there, who acted as a nurse.

There were already more than 1,000 people in the camp when we arrived and we were told that the camps for migrants in Costa Rica were full.

"Costa Rica only allows 50 to 100 people to cross the border every day"

Panama closed its southern border in 2016, after a sharp increase in the number of migrants entering the country illegally. The government set up camps to provide aid for those who continued to attempt to cross, but they were shuttered as the flow of migrants dwindled. Only the Peñita camp remains open, run by immigration officers and Senafront, said Mayteé Zachrisson, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration in Panama.

People at least have a roof to sleep under there, but there is no access to drinking water, phone networks, internet, health centres or transportation.

Costa Rica only allows 50 to 100 people to cross its border each day. So the migrants are stuck in Panama until they are able to enter Costa Rica.

After two weeks in Peñita , Antonio V. was taken to the Los Planes de Gualaca camp in the neighbouring province of Chiriquí. He said there were more than 400 people there when he arrived.

The Los Planes de Gualaca camp in Chiriquí province. (Video by Antonio V.)

The Los Planes de Gualaca camp. (Video by Antonio V.)

Antonio V. entered Costa Rica two weeks later, after spending more than a month in Panama. He was finally able to enter Costa Rica after more than a month in Panama. He later arrived in Mexico, where he stayed for two months before reaching the United States in early June.

The France 24 Observers contacted Panama’s National Migration Service and the border agency Senafront but did not receive a response.

>> Read more on The Observers: From the Caribbean to the USA, via Brazil: an interminable migration route -- Part 1 and Part 2.

This article was written by Chloé Lauvergnier (@clauvergnier).

 

https://observers.france24.com/en/20190624-panama-migrants-journey-united-states

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