published : 2023-09-09

Panama Takes Bold Measures to Tackle Surge in Migrants Crossing Treacherous Jungle

Record-breaking migration through dense Darien Gap prompts Panama to increase deportations and enhance infrastructure

A photo of migrants crossing the treacherous Darien Gap, taken with a Nikon D850.

Panama's response to the overwhelming surge of migrants passing through the treacherous Darien Gap has taken a dramatic turn.

In an attempt to contain the record-breaking flow of migrants, Panama will intensify deportations and bolster infrastructure along its border with Colombia.

This year alone, an astonishing 350,000 migrants have made the perilous journey through the dense jungle, surpassing last year's previous record of under 250,000.

To ensure a tangible impact, the government has authorized charter flights for deportations – a forceful measure aimed at curbing the influx.

Samira Gozaine, the National Immigration Authority Director, expressed the determination behind the increased deportations, stating, 'We will escalate these deportations to make a significant impact.'

Security Minister Juan Pino acknowledged Panama's responsible approach to managing the migrant flow, preventing a larger crisis from unfolding on the streets.

An aerial shot of the dense jungle separating North and South America, captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Despite their efforts, authorities concede that they are operating at the limit of their capacity.

As migrants arrive at small communities within Panama, their biometric data is meticulously collected and registered, ensuring thorough record-keeping.

To combat smugglers involved in trafficking migrants, drugs, and weapons, authorities plan to augment aerial patrols over the remote region.

Furthermore, installations will be constructed in the border areas to facilitate registration while keeping migrants separate from local communities.

While Colombian officials have not yet provided a comment on the matter, the joint commitment of the United States, Panama, and Colombia to dismantle smuggling rings is a step towards mitigating the crisis.

Panama is also implementing stricter requirements for certain foreign arrivals by air, reducing maximum tourist stays to 15 days and mandating a minimum proof of $1,000 in available funds.

A panoramic view of the Panamanian border with Colombia, showing the challenges faced by migrants on their journey, photographed with a Sony Alpha A7R III.

This change, however, will not apply universally to all nationalities.

Among all migrants traversing the Darien Gap, Venezuelans comprise more than half of the total.

Previously, Panama focused on quickly transporting migrants by bus from the Colombian border to its Costa Rican counterpart, facilitating their onward journey to the United States.

The transformation of Panama's response signals a new plan to address the massive influx of migrants, turning an arduous jungle crossing into a captivating tale of determination and resilience.

Through enhanced infrastructure and intensified deportations, Panama aims to create a significant impact on this unprecedented challenge.