On August 9, 2021, Panama’s government announced that it had reached an agreement with Colombia addressing the number of North America-bound migrants who will be allowed to cross their shared border. The aim of the agreement is to ensure that border traffic can be managed in an efficient and safe fashion.
The agreement provides a daily limit on the number of migrants crossing from Colombia into Panama — specifically, 650 migrants per day in August, with that number being gradually adjusted downward thereafter as conditions permit — to ensure that migrants can arrive in Panama in groups that can be adequately received and processed.
The binational accord also provides that Panama and Colombia will share relevant information on migrants in a timely manner (including biometric and statistical information) and will meet periodically to assess the progress of the agreement.
Immigration authorities have indicated that recently as many as 1,500 to 2,000 migrants arrived in Panama on one day, and approximately 10,000 were received in one week, which are numbers that may exceed the country’s capacity to provide adequate services.
Reportedly, many immigrants were held back by border closures caused by the COVID-19 epidemic and have overwhelmed crossing points that have recently reopened.
Panama and Colombia also indicated that they had agreed to cooperate to prosecute criminal organizations that rob migrants, conduct human trafficking operations, and transport illegal drugs through their shared border.Furthermore, in a meeting held on August 11, 2021, Colombia and Panama explained their border agreement to other countries in the region that also have routes used by North America-bound migrants (including Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru) and suggested that the attendees consider joining efforts to manage migration flows in a coordinated and safe manner.