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Panama: Population Movement - Information Bulletin N° 1

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This bulletin is being issued for information only and reflects the current situation and details available as of March 2021. While this document covers Panama's population movement, it does not include information related to the migrant caravans traveling from Central America to North America. For details on that situation, see the Emergency Appeal Revision published on 21 December 2021.

The Situation

From January 1st, 2019, until March 31st, 2021, 35,905 migrants have crossed the Darien jungle, of a total of 6,610 are children. Due to the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, the migratory flow during 2020 was atypical but did not stop.

According to communications and coordination with actors on the ground, from January to date, because of the opening of the borders, more than 7,000 migrants have arrived in the country coming from Antilles, South America, Africa, Asia, Central America, of which 3,400 are still in the country.

Likewise, according to SENAFRONT (Servicio Nacional de Fronteras by its acronym in Spanish) figures, some 2,800 migrants entered through Bajo Chiquito in the last two months to continue transit to Central America, in irregular migration, 19% of them were children and adolescents. .

Furthermore, as may be observed in Figure 2. according to information collected by the IFRC team in Panama, the last weeks have registered an inflow of migrants received in the ERM (Migration Reception Station by its acronym in Spanish), Bajo Chiquito, Lajas Blancas, Meteti, Canan Membrillo, and San Vicente. This is concerning considering that Bajo Chiquito ERM has a limited capacity and conditions to receive and assist migrants.

Migrants continue to arrive in Darien, most of them heading to North America, enduring all kinds of risks while crossing the Darien jungle and all along the migratory route in Central America and Mexico. Due to the formation of a new government in the United States and the opening of the borders due to the decrease of COVID-19 cases, high expectations have been generated among the migrant population given possible changes in this country's migratory policy.

It is expected that during this year's dry season (January to May/June), the decrease in rainfall will lead to better crossing conditions in the jungle, as water levels in rivers and streams decrease, travel through the jungle becomes less dangerous, and the number of migrants passing through the jungle increases4 .
Due to the restrictive measures for COVID-19, migrants spend from 14 days to 4 months in ERM and host communities without recurrent health attention, precarious housing conditions, and access to water. The situation created tensions between migrants, local authorities, and host communities, generating violent episodes in 2020.

According to the WHO, as of April 6th, 2021, there are 356,377 accumulated cases in Panama. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of cases has been increasing and reports a total of 6,135 deaths5 . There are no restrictive measures in place. The Panamanian Ministry of Health is focusing all its efforts on implementing the Continuous Vaccination Strategy to reduce the spread of COVID-196 .

In January 2021, Panama allowed migrants stranded in the country since 2020 due to restrictive measures to move to the Costa Rica border to continue their migratory journey. There are still many factors in their countries of origin that force more people to begin their journey to the United States through Panama, such as violence, unemployment, racism, inequality of opportunities, increased poverty, extreme weather conditions.

However, along the migration route, the needs of migrant families and individuals are diverse. The conditions mentioned in this bulletin are based on the people on the move, so they all need a migratory approach. However, the host communities also worth to be analysed from their needs. Below is a summary of the needs that have been identified by sector about the migrant population:

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