Panama declares war on illegal immigration, prepares to shut down Darien Gap jungle bridge with Colombia
The move is in response to the shocking flow of migrants passing through the jungle this year, crossing over from South America through the dense Central American land bridge
September 12, 2023 9:03am
Updated: September 12, 2023 9:03am
Panamanian immigration authorities are at a breaking point, preparing to expedite deportations and close the shared border with Colombia known as the Darien Gap, the country’s immigration chief said Friday.
The move is in response to the shocking flow of migrants passing through the jungle this year, crossing over from South America through the dense Central American land bridge.
Panama’s National Immigration Authority Director, Samira Gozaine, said the country’s president, Laurentino Cortizo is now commissioning charter flights to fly illegal immigrants out of the country.
An estimated 350,000 migrants have illegally crossed the jungle so far this year, breaking last year’s shocking record of fewer than a quarter million, which at the time, also set a record.
“We will increase these deportations so that the required impact is felt,” Gozaine said, according to a report filed by the AP.
Panamanian authorities also said new installations would be built in border areas where migrants are being registered, but they will be kept apart from local communities.
According to the AP report, there was no immediate comment from Colombian officials.
In a desperate attempt to curb illegal immigration, Panama is also raising requirements for foreigners to visit on airlines.
The Central American country is now lowering the maximum tourist stay to only 15 days from 90 and travelers have to show they have at least $1,000, rather than the current $500 so they can afford to leave
Gozaine said the new restrictions will not apply to visitors from all countries alike.
The largest flow of illegal immigrants have come from Venezuela, making up more than half of the migrants who entered through the Darien Gap this year.
To date, Panama has deported migrants by bus from its southern Colombian border to its northern border with Costa Rica since it is impossible to travel by vehicle through the Darien Gap.
This has allowed migrants to continue their journey north toward the United States, which is also complaining about the massive migrant flow crossing the border.
In April, the United States, Panama and Colombia entered into a joint agreement to shut down smugglers who illegally transport migrants through the Colombian-Panamanian jungle.