PANAMA CITY: Panama promised on Tuesday to help hundreds of migrants who have crossed its jungle border from Colombia to carry on toward the United States.
President Juan Carlos Varela said Panama would make an exception to its immigration restrictions for migrants who have recently crossed into Panama’s Darien jungle.
“The border will remain closed to irregular migrants, but those that are using these points to cross and have already reached our territory will be given humanitarian assistance so they can continue on their way,” he said.
“Panama will not allow anyone who has crossed into our country to die on our territory,” he added, in a public speech.
Around 800 US-bound migrants, most of them from Haiti, Africa, Asia and Cuba, are in dense jungle on the Panama-Colombia border, Varela said Friday.
He described it as “another migration crisis.”
A further 2,500 are stranded in Panama’s northern neighbor, Costa Rica, since the next country on the trail, Nicaragua, has tightened immigration controls.
Colombian authorities say they have deported thousands of migrants trying to reach Panama from its northern territory.
Varela said last week that many of the migrants were Haitians who had gone to Brazil after a 2010 earthquake devastated their country.
Brazil’s current deep recession has driven them to try to get to the United States through Central America.