US, Panama and Colombia aim to stop Darien Gap migration


PANAMA CITY (AP) – The United States, Panama and Colombia announced Tuesday that they will launch a 60-day campaign aimed at halting illegal migration through the treacherous Darien Gap, where the flow of migrants has multiplied this year.

Details on how the governments will try to curb the flow of migrants that reached nearly 90,000 in just the first three months of this year through the dense, lawless jungle were not provided in the joint statement.

The ambitious announcement came as the Biden administration nervously awaits the expected end of a pandemic-related rule May 11 that has suspended rights to seek asylum for many. Without that instrument of dissuasion at the U.S. border, there is concern migrant arrivals could again become unmanageable.

The joint statement said the countries will also use “new lawful and flexible pathways for tens of thousands of migrants and refugees as an alternative to irregular migration,” but again gave no details.

The plan’s third element is investment to reduce poverty and create jobs in the Colombian and Panamanian border communities, presumably so fewer people work at smuggling migrants.

“Recognizing our shared interest and responsibility to prevent the risk to human life, disrupt transnational criminal organizations, and preserve the vital rainforest, the governments of Panamá, Colombia, and the United States intend to carry out a two-month coordinated campaign to address the serious humanitarian situation in the Darién,” the statement said.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas met with the foreign ministers of Panama and Colombia in Panama on Tuesday.

According to Panama’s government, more than 87,000 migrants crossed the Darien Gap in the first three months of the year, mostly from Venezuela, Haiti and Ecuador. That was up from nearly 14,000 migrants during the same period a year earlier. Last year, set a record for migrants cusing the Darien route, with nearly 250,000.


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