The UN Migration Agency (IOM) and Panama’s Ministry of Public Security have signed an agreement which will enable closer cooperation against smuggling and trafficking in persons, as well as on border management, emergency preparedness and crisis response resulting from migration flows.
The agreement seeks to provide training for government officials, establish work sessions with institutions involved in migration matters, and the exchange of information on the development and implementation of migration policies between IOM and the Ministry of Interior technicians and specialists.
This is a highly important issue for Panama, because over the last few years the economic growth and employment expectations caused by major infrastructure projects have increased migration flows and the consolidation of Panama as a destination country, in particular for South American countries such as Colombia, and more recently, Venezuela.
In addition, there has been a substantial increase of irregular migrants not only from Asia and Africa, but also from Cuba and Haiti, who are trying to reach North America. In 2015, according to the State Border Service (SENAFRONT), 31,749 migrants, mostly Cubans on their way to North America, entered Panama through Darien Province. However, of the 25,438 irregular migrants who entered the country in 2016, most were Haitians and the rest from Asia, Africa and Cuba.
Santiago Paz, Chief of Mission of IOM Panama signed the agreement with Alexis Bethancourt Yau, Panama’s Minister of Public Security. During the ceremony, the head of the Ministry pointed out that IOM has always provided technical assistance to the Government of Panama and this deal will formalize the cooperation on migration issues.
Paz said that the UN Migration Agency “can provide its capabilities to the Government of Panama to actively support the implementation of strategies and initiatives that will contribute to a safe, orderly and regular migration management and ensure the human rights of migrants.”