By Elida Moreno
PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – The head of Panama’s migration agency lashed out at Colombia on Friday, blasting its southern neighbor for failing to help control the flow of mostly US-bound migrants flowing through the perilous Darien Gap marched amidst a wave of people traveling north.
Samira Gozaine, head of Panama’s National Migration Service, lamented the failure to reach an agreement with Colombia to promote legal transit for the up to 2,800 migrants per day who illegally cross their common border.
“For Panama, this is a crisis, but unfortunately we have not been able to reach any kind of agreement with Colombia,” Gozaine said in a statement released Friday.
She said the situation has only gotten worse and called out Colombian officials for not sharing information with Panamanian counterparts.
The government of Colombia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The dense tropical jungle of the 60-mile Darien Gap connects Panama and Colombia and occupies a missing section of the Pan-American Highway, stretching from Alaska to Argentina. Known for harboring criminal gangs and smugglers, The Gap has become a major transit point for masses of desperate migrants seeking a better life in the United States.
Late last month, the Panama Security Ministry released data showing that the number of individual crossings of the Darien Gap reached an all-time high of nearly 250,000 in the first seven months of the year. This already exceeds the number of crossings for the whole of 2022.
Panamanian officials have also had to deport many Colombian nationals, Gozaine said, most of whom have criminal records.
“All Panama can do is control the flow and allow (migrants) to continue traveling north and try to minimize damage to Panama,” she said.
(Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Tom Hogue)