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Panama: Population Movement - DREF Final Report (n° MDRPA015)

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Description of the disaster

According to the registers of the National Migration Service of Panama (SNM by his acronym in Spanish), between January and July 2021, 45,150 migrants (33,077 adults and 12,073 children)1 arrived in Panama from Colombia after crossing the jungle of Darien, which represents the highest figure recorded in the last 6 years, in 2016 (30,065), and has also exceeded almost 42% of the total number of migrants registered during 2019 (22,102). According to SNM in Panama, the number of migrants crossing from the Colombian border to Darien increased by 89% in July 2020, compared to the flow in June.

To respond to this increase in migration flows, the Red Cross Society of Panama (RCSP) launched in August 2021, an initial DREF Operation of 309,477 Swiss francs (CHF) to meet ongoing needs of 6,000 people in the Darién Gap (MDRPA015 DREF Plan of Action).

Due to the increase in needs and the continuous migratory movement in the Darién Gap, where an average of 700 to 1,000 people were crossing every day between June and October 2021, the RCSP decided to review its original plan and the operation timeframe for additional three months (until 28 February 2022). It also included an additional allocation of 171,953 CHF (total budget of 481,430 CHF). (See MDRPA015 DREF Operation Update no. 1). Expanding the scope of the operation was justified in the face of a significant and sustained increase in the flow of migrants in and transiting through the Darién Gap, as well as the continued high risks associated with migration routes and the affected communities in the region. The new objective aimed to reach 11,000 migrating people over six months, extending the services and including an additional activity of distribution of jerrycans as per pressing identified needs from the field.

Due to its geographic position, Panama is a natural point of entry for migrating populations. Nationals from more than 45 countries across its borders daily. Since 2012, there has been a significant increase in the number of individuals who enter the Darién Gap irregularly. In 2020, of the 6,445 people who crossed the border between Colombia and Panama, 26% were children and adolescents. Between January and June 2021, 15,949 migrants in total entered the region. This number rose to 94,693 between July and October 2021, representing a 600% increase from the previous six months. As a result, between January and October 2021, 121,737 people crossed this same border, with a sharp rise first observed in June and sustained in all subsequent months (see figure 1 below). From September 2021 to February 2022, there were a total of 71,789 migrants that arrived at the time of the DREF implementation (see figure 2 below).

As of 28 February 2022, the objective to reach 11,000 affected migrants was surpassed reaching a total of 35,911 migrants traveling through the Darien border and being supported by the RCSP.

Migrant routes changed, and there was a reduction in the number of migrants reaching the Migrant Reception Stations (ERM by its acronym in Spanish) (200-300 migrants per day), which allowed the RCSP to develop an exit strategy to continue providing services with multilateral and bilateral funding.