Panama president-elect plans new checkpoints to control border with Colombia News
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Panama president-elect plans new checkpoints to control border with Colombia

Panama’s next president José Raul Mulino announced Thursday that the forthcoming government is planning to set up new checkpoints in a thick jungle area along its southern border, which has become a dangerous segment of the path for the growing number of migrants trying to head to the US.

During his proclamation as president-elect, Mulino delivered a speech outlining his government plans. He emphasized efforts already underway to “end the odyssey of the Darien,” the border jungle dividing Panama and Colombia:

Panama and our Darien are not a transit route; they are our border. And the concept of closure that I have outlined implies … that we will initiate, with international assistance, a repatriation process in full compliance with human rights for all individuals in the Darien, so that those from there and those who wish to come know that anyone arriving here will be sent back to their country of origin.

In response to Mulino’s statements, UNICEF stated that it is very difficult to predict the outcome of the border closure. Still, based on experiences in other places where such measures were implemented, people typically seek alternative routes that pose greater dangers. UNICEF also revealed that crossings of migrant children through the Darien Gap have increased by 40% so far this year, representing a significant group of those crossing the border.

Experts in the field have also noted that closing the border is an unfeasible task and could negatively affect the thousands of people attempting to cross the jungle. They also pointed out that such policies counter what other countries are doing regarding migration and border issues.

Over the years, the Darien Gap “has become one of the world’s busiest migrant highways” where people who try to cross the border face various dangers such as organized crime, sexual violence, and human trafficking.