Panama to repatriate illegal immigrants with US help

According to a statement published by media outlets such as the digital version of La Prensa, the announcement was made by officials from the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security.

The United States will be responsible for the flights, which are part of a pilot plan agreed upon with Panama to deter the roughly 1,200 travelers a day who cross the jungle without documents, coming from countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Haiti.

“The situation in Darien is unsustainable and in many cases tragic,” said Marcela Escobarri, special assistant to President Joe Biden and White House adviser on immigration.

“We hope this measure will deter migrants from putting themselves and their families at great risk by crossing the Darien River and the rest of this route,” he said via video conference.

So far in 2024, 195,817 irregular migrants have passed through this inhospitable and dangerous area linking Panama and Colombia.

According to them, Washington will contribute $6 million to the Isthmus Authority for training, technical assistance and the cost of flights for migrants to their countries of origin.

The newspaper pointed out that the number of migrants who will be returned daily with this experimental plan is unknown, and it is also not clear whether the United States will manage these funds or whether the Panamanian authorities will be responsible for managing the use of the funds.

The initial details of the pilot return plan come a day after U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and new Panamanian President José Raúl Molino signed a memorandum of understanding to address the migration crisis in Darien.

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Molino took advantage of Mayorkas’ visit, part of the US delegation that attended his inauguration on July 1, to sign the bilateral agreement.

For its part, the newspaper La Estrella de Panama highlighted that in order to stop the migration crisis, the Ministry of Security has begun to erect a fence on the Colombian-Panamanian border crossings, where displaced people are flowing irregularly.

The new head of that portfolio, Frank Abrego, revealed to the newspaper that the construction of this fence will be done in stages and “little by little.”

He also indicated that this process will be carried out in continuous coordination with the Colombian authorities.

Abrego confirmed that coordination with the South American country began on July 1 in a bilateral meeting attended by Colombian President Gustavo Petro and his Foreign Minister Luis Murillo.

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