Panama expands border security services to guarantee migrants' rights

21 April, 2021


Metetí, Darién - With the graduation ceremony of its first 150 members on April 19, Panama celebrated the creation of the new Humanitarian Border Security Unit (USFROH). This new unit, which will form part of the Chucunaque Battalion, is the humanitarian arm of the National Border Service (SENAFRONT) and will provide security for migrants, as well as preventive patrols, first aid, rescue and location of people lost in the jungle, as well humanitarian assistance.


The USFROH was established after a joint training process between the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and SENAFRONT, with the support of the Human Mobility Group of the United Nations System in Panama.


Juan Manuel Pino, Minister of Public Security, pointed out that Panama has felt the impact of the arrival of large groups of migrants of different nationalities. Therefore, a special unit was created within SENAFRONT to provide assistance to these people, so that they receive the humanitarian treatment they require while in Panamanian territory.


"Panama is respectful of the International Humanitarian Law, and we have demonstrated it during this pandemic. Last year we improved the humanitarian aspects of the stay of migrants in Panama", highlighted the head of the Ministry of Public Security.


Minister Pino pointed out that there is currently a controlled flow of migrants entering Panama through the Darien border and on their way to Costa Rica. A current goal, he added, is to have the same level of coordination with the Colombian authorities.


"The training received by our units is of great impact, because for us it is relevant to maintain a community police within the Migration Reception Stations and thus guarantee a better humanitarian assistance to migrants crossing the Darien province" said Oriel Ortega Benitez, General Director of SENAFRONT.


The ceremony was attended by government authorities, representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in Panama and representatives of programs, funds and agencies of the United Nations System in Panama. This activity was conducted in the context of capacity building for the management of mixed flows of migrants in Panama, implemented by IOM through the Western Hemisphere Program, with funding from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.


The new unit is the operational result of an intersectoral strategy whose goal is to safeguard the safety, dignity and lives of migrants on their way to North American countries through the Darien jungle.


"This clear and precise dimension is undoubtedly the one that can consolidate a good practice in the protection of migrants and that we hope to continue to consolidate more and more, complementing the efforts made by the Government of Panama in the face of the challenges involved in managing migration in a safe, orderly, regular and dignified manner in the context of borders," said Santiago Paz, head of the Global Administrative Center and the IOM Mission in Panama.


The comprehensive training of USFROH members is essential to give impetus and cohesion to the efforts of the actors involved in promoting good migration management and achieving optimal levels of security within the framework of a culture of peace, through crime prevention strategies and the protection of human rights.


This project is aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recognizes the positive impact of migration on the economic and social development of people and societies. It is composed of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets that include specific content related to international migration. Target 10.7, for example, refers to facilitating migration and orderly migration policies. Target 16.2 says to eradicate child abuse, trafficking and exploitation.


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in 2015 by 193 Member States of the United Nations that, with the promise to "leave no one behind", committed to protect migrants in vulnerable situations and put an end to human trafficking, labor exploitation, abuse, violence and discrimination.