(FILE) Migrants at a shelter in Paso Canoas, on the Panama-Costa Rica border, 05 August 2023. EFE/Marcelino Rosario

Panama summit frames migration crisis as “regional challenge” of the century

Panama City, Aug 23 (EFE).- Representatives from 23 countries in the Americas met in Panama on Wednesday to discuss the migration crisis, which Panamanian Foreign Minister Janaina Tewaney, host of the event, called the “regional challenge of the 21st century”.

(FILE) Migrants at a shelter in Darien, 11 February 2022, on the Panama-Colombia border. EFE/ Carlos Lemos

This summit is the fourth Plenary Meeting of two organizations, the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM, with 11 member states from North and Central America and the Caribbean) and the South American Conference on Migration (CSM, with 12 member states), as well as delegates from international organizations.

The objective of the meeting is “to ensure that all states exchange information and data that will allow us to address this issue in an efficient and humane manner,” Tewaney said, adding that her country “has given migration the status of a national issue”.

Panama offered itself as a “builder of dialogue to address regular, safe and orderly migration,” the foreign minister continued, saying these were “essential” conditions to prevent migrants from becoming “victims of organized crime.”

“Freedom of movement is a right and the provision of humanitarian aid is a duty,” Tewaney said.

Panama has so far this year provided medical services and food to some 300,000 migrants transiting through the country on the way to North America, a record number that far exceeds the 248,284 migrants in 2022 and the 133,726 in 2021.

These migrants arrive in Panama after crossing the inhospitable jungle of the Darien Gap, a roadless region between Panama and Colombia controlled by violent criminal groups that subject the migrants to extortion, rape, and murder. There are no figures available on how many may have died there.

The RCM, whose rotating presidency is currently held by Panama, and the CSM, chaired by Peru, are regional consultative processes on migration.

The III RCM-CSM Meeting was held in a virtual format in May 2022 and resulted in the agreement to create an RCM-CSM Working Group and an Observatory on Human Mobility.

It is expected that this meeting will address, among others, the issue of the Human Mobility Observatory, trafficking and smuggling of migrants, regional and extra-regional irregular migration, and capacity building of local governments on migration and human mobility issues. EFE