IOM supports humanitarian response provided by the Government of Panama to migrants stranded in Darien Gap
Panama, April 12th, 2020. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Panama, provided the National Border Service (SENAFRONT) and the Ministry of Health (MINSA) with personal hygiene and cleaning supplies, as well as personal protection masks and food. These efforts were deployed to support the government’s efforts to aid the extraregional migrants stranded in the country, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the varied dispositions undertaken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the closing of borders has been used by many countries along extraregional migrants’ routes. As a result, over 2,500 migrants who were transiting through Panama in their journey northward are currently, and indefinitely, stranded in Migrant Reception Stations in the borders at Darien and Chiriquí.
“We at IOM believe firmly that, while pandemic impacts direct and indirectly nationals and non-nationals, the effect is not the same on everyone. It widens preexisting gaps that will impact the capacity to overcome the crisis. Even though not all migrants will be affected by the COVID-19 crisis, many of them are members of at-risk and vulnerable populations: refugees, extraregional migrants, people in need of international protection, children and adolescents (especially unaccompanied or separated minors). We cannot leave them behind in the strategies to respond to this crisis, because protecting their rights and their dignity means responding to everyone’s humanitarian needs”, explained Santiago Paz, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Panama.
IOM has worked along with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and in close logistics coordination with SENAFRONT, articulating efforts to better respond to identified needs, not only for migrants and refugees currently in these Migrant Reception Stations, but also to SENAFRONT and MINSA staff providing security and protection in the area.
“We have delivered dry foods, canned goods and oil, as well as 405 bags of groceries prepared to satisfy the needs of five people each, for an estimated period of five to six days. We strive to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading through daily food manipulation, by spacing the frequency of such handouts to avoid contacts. To the same objective, IOM and UNHCR have provided SENAFRONT with masks, disposable towels, gallons of soap and bottles of alcohol”, added Paz.
COVID-19 does not discriminate, and our answer to it should not either. Only with an inclusive focus and not leaving anyone behind, will we be able to overcome an unprecedented, global crisis.
These activities are developed within the framework of the Western Hemisphere Program, funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.