Latin American bishops ask help for migrants stranded in jungle on Panama-Colombia border

By Diego Lopez Marina for CNA

A portion of the Darien Gap in Panama’s Darien province. Credit: UrbanUnique/Shutterstock.

Apartado, Colombia, Aug 16, 2021 / 06:01 am (CNA).

Three Latin American ecclesial organizations on Wednesday asked for help for the thousands of migrants on their way to the US who are stranded in the Darien Gap, a jungle region at the Panama-Colombia border.

The migrants are exposed to criminal gangs and the risks typical of the jungle environment.

The Colombian Bishops’ Conference; the Latin American and Caribbean Ecclesial Network on Migration, Displacement, Refuge and Human Trafficking; and the Bishops’ Secretariat of Central America published a joint statement Aug. 11 proposing actions to be taken to address the humanitarian crisis in the border region.

According to data from the Panamanian authorities, more than 10,000 migrants are in transit in the Colombian-Panamanian border area through the Darien jungle. So far this year more than 40,000 migrants have crossed the border.

In addition, thousands of migrants have arrived at the Colombian port of Necoclí waiting for boats to take them to the border with Panama in order to cross the Darien jungle. The migrants are mainly from Haiti and Cuba, but also from Venezuela, Senegal, India, Pakistan, Congo, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Eritrea.

In July more than 212,000 migrants were detained at the US-Mexico border, the highest monthly figure since April 2000.

In their statement, the bishops representing the organizations warned of “the difficult humanitarian situation in the Gulf of Urabá Antioqueño, Colombia, and the Darien border region between Panama and Colombia, as a result of the arrival of a significant number of people from several countries, who intend to cross the Darien Gap.”

“The lack of knowledge about the harsh reality of the jungle, its natural environment and the presence of armed gangs controlling the area, we are being warned of a scenario of imminently increasing risks to their protection and the potential violation of the rights of this migrant population in transit through Colombia, Panama and Central America,” the prelates said.

They pointed out that in this border area the migrants “are exposed to countless risks, a situation that poses significant challenges in terms of emergency medical care and safe migratory transit.”

They also recalled the call of Pope Francis to governments “to be prudent and welcome all refugees and migrants,” and asked that “under a merciful gaze” migrants, refugees, displaced persons, and victims of trafficking “be received with a welcoming attitude” since “in addition to enduring the difficulties due to their very condition, they are frequently subjected to negative judgments, since they are considered responsible for social ills.”

“Their reality constitutes an alarm signal, which warns us of the moral decadence we face if we continue to give space to the throwaway culture,” they said.

The bishops also requested that “joint work be carried out between governments, governmental organizations and civil society, institutions and the host communities themselves, to humanize the care and treatment of migrants and guarantee minimum assistance in food, healthcare and coexistence.”

They also called “communities to be in solidarity with the migrants who are in transit” on the Colombian-Panamanian border, and requested “the ongoing and coordinated presence of the authorities in the municipalities and communities affected by the migratory flow, the adoption of national and regional measures for the implementation of humanitarian corridors that guarantee legal entry and safe, orderly and regular transit through the territories.”

They also asked that the basic rights of these people “in our territories” be guaranteed.

They also requested “the issuance of humanitarian visas to people in particularly vulnerable situations, as well as the evaluation of cases where the international protection of refugees applies.”

The archbishops said that it is necessary to establish temporary reception centers for migrants and refugees that meet “the minimum conditions to guarantee fundamental rights and thus avoid violations such as human trafficking.”

“Finally, we call for working together for the migrants who are crying out for support to continue their transit, starting with understanding their situation and recognizing them as human beings in an emergency that drives them to be on the move in a situation full of risks, necessities and constant challenges.”

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1 Comment

  1. Governments need “to be prudent and welcome all refugees and migrants.” I swear you can’t make this stuff up. Memo to Latin American bishops: Start applying some pressure on your corrupt and incompetent governments to improve the conditions in your own nations. Maybe you also should look in the mirror before you make demands on the United States.

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