US, Panama, Colombia Announce New Campaign to Stop Illegal Migration

    15 April 2023

    The United States, Panama and Colombia have announced a new campaign designed to reduce traffic on a big illegal migration route.

    The effort is to center on an area known as the Darién Gap, a jungle area in Colombia and Panama.

    Representatives from the three countries announced plans for the two-month campaign after high-level talks. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently met with the foreign ministers of Panama and Colombia in Panama to discuss the issue.

    FILE - Haitian migrants wade through a river as they cross the Darien Gap, from Colombia into Panama, hoping to reach the U.S., Oct. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara, File)
    FILE - Haitian migrants wade through a river as they cross the Darien Gap, from Colombia into Panama, hoping to reach the U.S., Oct. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara, File)

    The representatives released a joint statement. They said their campaign aims to end the illegal movement of people and goods through the area. The effort is also meant to open additional pathways for people to lawfully migrate.

    Official migration data from Panama shows there were nearly 90,000 illegal crossings through the Darién Gap in the first three months of 2023. Most of the migrants came from Venezuela, Haiti and Ecuador. That is more than six times the number recorded during the same period last year.

    Officials from the three countries also promised to carry out a plan to reduce poverty. They said they would create jobs in border communities.

    A high-level official in the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden recently told The Associated Press that U.S. forces will assist Colombian and Panamanian efforts. They will help stop smugglers operating in the Darién Gap.

    Last year, a record number of migrants used the Darien route. The number reached nearly 250,000. Venezuelans represented much of the increase. That group made up about 60 percent of the migrants crossing the area last year.

    In October, the Biden administration decided to use a pandemic-related rule, found in the part of U.S. law called Title 42, to prevent Venezuelans from requesting asylum at the U.S. border. Instead, the U.S. government said it would accept up to 24,000 Venezuelans at U.S. airports who had already sought and been pre-approved through an online government program. Earlier this year, that program began including Nicaraguans, Haitians and Cubans.

    But the Title 42 rule is set to end next month. So, the U.S. wants to block illegal migration at the Darién Gap.

    The Darién Gap is among the most dangerous parts of the long path to reach the U.S. border from South America. Migrants and international human rights groups have denounced sexual attacks, robberies and killings in the jungle area. In addition, there are natural dangers, including poisonous snakes and fast-running rivers.

    The Panamanian government and nongovernmental groups transport migrants across Panama to near its border with Costa Rica by bus. From there, the migrants continue their trip northward.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    route – n. the roads and paths that are followed to get from one place to another

    jungle – n. an area of land, usually in tropical countries, where dense trees and plants grow close together