Costa Rica Panamá Tapón del Darién

Costa Rica, Panama Launch Joint Mission to Tackle Irregular Migration

Costa Rica, Panama Launch Joint Mission to Tackle Darién’s Irregular Migration Crisis

Panama City, October 6, 2023 – President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen of Panama and his Costa Rican counterpart, Rodrigo Chaves, convened on October 6 at the diplomatic lounge in Marcos A. Gelabert Airport, Albrook, to address key issues such as environmental concerns, security, border cooperation, strengthening the Alliance for Development in Democracy, and the pressing irregular migration crisis emanating from the perilous Darién Gap.

“The risky journey undertaken by the thousands of irregular migrants who enter our country IS DANGEROUS, inhuman, a humanitarian drama of pain, suffering and death. I reiterate to the countries of the region and the world: Darién is NOT a route, it is a jungle!,” warned Nito Cortizo from Lajas Blancas.



Cortizo Cohen emphasized the importance of ensuring the safe and orderly passage of migrants.

Panama has been grappling with a substantial influx of irregular migrants who traverse the treacherous Darién jungle, with the primary objective of safeguarding their lives. Cortizo Cohen underscored that this crisis has become an untenable situation that directly impacts the people of Panama.

“We arrived at the Lajas Blancas Immigration Reception Station, one of the critical points where thousands of migrants arrive every day. From January to September 2023, more than 400,000 migrants have crossed the Darién, of which 60% have been Venezuelans,” reported Nito Cortizo from Darien.

Accompanying President Cortizo Cohen were the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Janaina Tewaney Mencomo, and Security, Juan Pino. President Chaves was joined by Foreign Minister Arnoldo André Tinoco and Minister of Security Mario Zamora Cordero.

Following their meeting, the two presidents embarked on a helicopter flight to the Darién province, where they surveyed the border area with Colombia, pinpointing the specific locations where migrants, predominantly from South America, enter irregularly.



In 2023, a staggering 415,104 migrants have entered Darién irregularly, surpassing the historical figures of both 2021 (133,726) and 2022 (248,284). In September alone, 75,268 migrants entered, marking an increase of 27,064 compared to the same period in 2022. The daily influx of individuals through Darién averages between 2,500 and 3,000.


“I carried out, together with the President of Costa Rica Rodrigo Chaves, an aerial tour of the border region with Colombia, specifically on the communities receiving irregular migrants from South America, who enter our country irregularly,” tweeted Nito Cortizo from Darien.




As per the agenda, the aerial reconnaissance concluded at the Lajas Blancas Immigration Reception Station (ERM). Later in the day, the leaders and their respective delegations relocated from ERM Lajas Blancas to the First Eastern Brigade of the National Border Service (SENAFRONT), where the Panama-Costa Rica Binational Cabinet Meeting convened.

The Panamanian delegation, led by President Cortizo Cohen, comprised the Chancellor, the Minister of Security, Juan Manuel Pino, the Minister of the Environment, Milciades Concepción, the General Director of the National Migration Service, Samira Gozaine, the General Director of the National Border Service, Jorge Gobea, and the General Director of the National Aeronaval Service, Eliécer Cárdenas.

The Costa Rican delegation included the President, the Chancellor, Arnoldo André Tinoco, the Minister of Security, Mario Zamora Cordero, and the Minister of Communication, Jorge Rodríguez Vives.

Aerial Inspection of Darién Gap

Darién, October 6, 2023 – President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen of Panama and his Costa Rican counterpart, Rodrigo Chaves, embarked on an aerial reconnaissance mission along the border region with Colombia.

The purpose of this flight was to examine specific areas where migrants from South America enter irregularly, as part of the official visit by the Costa Rican dignitary.

During the flight, the leaders surveyed key locations, including Río Tres Bocas, situated at the convergence of the Marraganti, Turquesa, and Cañas Blancas rivers, approximately 5 kilometers from the Colombian border. This area serves as a route for current irregular migration.



They also flew over Canaán Membrillo, a village within the Emberá Wounaan region that migrants use as an irregular passage through the Darién jungle. This community is home to the first Panamanian border control in the Darién jungle region.



The leaders observed Bajo Chiquito, a town located within the Emberá Wounaan region in the heart of the Darién Gap, with nearly 300 inhabitants. This community experiences a daily influx of irregular migrants that is nearly three times its population, leading to environmental and sociocultural challenges.



“I held a bilateral meeting with Rodrigo Chaves, President of Costa Rica, we talked about security, border collaboration, migration and the Alliance for Development in Democracy, to establish coordination at the highest level for the benefit of our nations.

Panama is making a titanic effort to care for the thousands of irregular migrants who cross the dangerous Darién jungle, with the purpose of safeguarding their lives; However, this crisis is an unsustainable situation that directly affects Panamanians,” stated Nito Cortizo.




The aerial reconnaissance concluded at the Lajas Blancas Immigration Reception Station (ERM), where the leaders inspected the recorded migratory movement. Panamanian authorities provided their Costa Rican counterparts with insights into the controlled flow operations taking place in the area.

Lajas Blancas serves as an organization point for migratory flows and implements security controls. Additionally, in collaboration with the United Nations System, the Panamanian government provides comprehensive care at this facility.



Costa Rican journalists, correspondents from international agencies, and local media were invited to the center to witness the arrival of thousands of individuals at this entry point.

Following the aerial survey, the Presidents of Panama and Costa Rica, along with their official delegations, traveled to the First Eastern Brigade of the National Border Service in Metetí, where the Panama-Costa Rica Binational Cabinet Meeting will convene. Before embarking on the overflight of Darién province, both dignitaries held a private meeting at Albrook Airport.

According to official statistics, more than 400,000 people have entered through Darién so far this year.

United Urgent Appeal

Darién, October 6, 2023 – Presidents Laurentino Cortizo Cohen of Panama and Rodrigo Chaves Robles of Costa Rica convened a Binational Cabinet meeting with the primary goal of addressing the security and migration challenges that have impacted the region in recent years.



To date, 415,104 individuals have crossed these borders in 2023.



Following this meeting, both nations issued a joint declaration, emphasizing their shared objectives and unity in addressing the ongoing migration crisis in the region.

With a sense of urgency, the governments extended a call to countries in the region, encompassing those of origin, transit, and destination, as well as international collaborators and organizations. Their appeal was for a pragmatic approach to confront the challenges of the moment while not losing sight of the root causes of migration.

Recognizing the need for immediate action, both countries pledged to enhance their capacity for the care and management of migratory flows, with the overarching goal of ensuring safe and orderly migration for both migrants and host populations.

They emphasized that this is a shared responsibility and stressed that the Darién should not be considered a viable route for migration, as stated in their joint declaration.

The document also urged an urgent meeting of regional Heads of State to address the issue, commending Mexico’s initiative to convene such a meeting on October 22.

To be effective, the leaders called for the participation of all countries, whether they are countries of origin, transit, or destination. The desired outcome is a series of actions with immediate and long-term positive impacts.

Additionally, the joint statement extended an invitation to regional leaders to visit Darién and witness firsthand the severity of the humanitarian crisis unfolding there.

During his address, President Cortizo Cohen emphasized the extreme challenges faced by migrants crossing the perilous Darién jungle, characterizing it as a harrowing ordeal.

He shared stories of individuals, including children, who have tragically perished during the treacherous journey. President Cortizo Cohen stressed the collaborative efforts of Costa Rica and Panama in addressing this crisis.

President Rodrigo Chaves of Costa Rica echoed the sentiment, emphasizing unity and a common objective. He described the migrants’ experiences as they navigate this challenging “green hell,” highlighting their sheer will to survive.

President Chaves affirmed their commitment to protecting their populations from the impact of this influx of foreign migrants.

Before issuing their joint declaration, both leaders conducted aerial surveys of areas where migrants enter the jungle and visited the Migration Reception Station in Lajas Blancas.

Panama and Costa Rica Agreement

• The agreement encompasses 200 buses, jointly accredited by both nations, which will transit directly without halting at Paso Canoas, aiming to enhance the migration flow along the shared border.

• The presidents of Costa Rica and Panama voiced their endorsement for the invitation extended by their Mexican counterpart to convene a regional summit of heads of state on October 22, with the objective of addressing the migration crisis and achieving an organized and secure flow of individuals.

Metetí, Darién. 6 October, 2023. Panama and Costa Rica have reached an agreement to facilitate the passage of 200 buses transporting irregular migrants, beginning on Monday, October 9. These buses will receive accreditation for expedited transit, bypassing Paso Canoas, and allowing migrants to continue their journey through Central America without interruptions.

The announcement was made during a press conference by Presidents Laurentino Cortizo Cohen of Panama and Rodrigo Chaves of Costa Rica. This announcement followed their working tour of the Darién region, which included an aerial inspection of migrant entry points, a visit to the Migrant Reception Station (ERM) in Lajas Blancas, and a joint statement at a Binational Cabinet meeting addressing the regional migration crisis.

“In a coordinated manner, we issued a joint declaration, under a shared objective: to speak with a single voice and make an urgent call to the nations of origin, transit and destination, as well as cooperators and international organizations, to efficiently address migration,” tweeted Nito Cortizo.

Joint Statement: Panama and Costa Rica, a single voice in the face of the migration crisis.

Meteti, Darien, October 6, 2023,

Signed by presidents of Costa Rica and Panama.

“Costa Rica and Panama are neighboring nations united by a common goal. Today, as Presidents, we have come together to express a unified stance on the pressing migration crisis affecting our region. We urgently call upon all countries in the region, whether they are countries of origin, transit, or destination, as well as international organizations, to collectively address the challenges of this moment in a systematic manner while keeping in mind the root causes of migration.

This necessitates immediate intervention to enhance our countries’ capacity to manage and provide for migratory movements, with the aim of ensuring they occur in an organized and safe manner for both migrants and our local communities. This is a shared responsibility that we cannot ignore.

We urge the prompt convening of a summit gathering Heads of State from the region to tackle this issue. We applaud Mexico’s initiative to host this summit on October 22. We believe it’s crucial for all countries involved, whether they are countries of origin, transit, or destination, to actively participate. The measures stemming from this meeting must yield tangible and immediate results. We encourage regional leaders to visit Darien and witness firsthand the gravity of this humanitarian crisis.”



President Cortizo Cohen emphasized the strong relationship between Panama and Costa Rica, stating that they aim to manage the migration flow as efficiently as possible. The accredited buses will undergo thorough checks by both countries, have endorsed drivers, and carry international insurance.

President Chaves highlighted that this measure will help alleviate the migration flow at Paso Canoas, ensuring that Costa Rica is less affected by irregular migration issues such as encampments in towns.



Both presidents expressed support for the Mexican President’s call for an urgent meeting on October 22 of regional heads of state to address the migration crisis. President Cortizo Cohen stressed the need for the participation of all countries involved in the migration chain, including countries of origin, transit, and final destination, to ensure a well-organized flow.



Regarding the United States Department of State’s announcement to resume repatriations of Venezuelan citizens crossing the border irregularly, President Cortizo Cohen acknowledged its potential effectiveness but also noted that it is not sufficient to address the broader issue.

During the Binational Cabinet meeting, the Ministers of Public Security of Panama and Security of Costa Rica presented the context of migration.



The Director of the National Migration Service (SNM), Samira Gozaine, highlighted the significant increase in irregular migration in recent years, particularly from Venezuela, Ecuador, Haiti, China, and Colombia. She also pointed out the key entry points, such as Bajo Chiquito and Canáan Membrillo, and the facilities where migrants receive necessary support.

Jorge Gobea, the Director of the National Border Service (SENAFRONT), provided an overview of security forces’ actions against organized crime in the Darién jungle, resulting in numerous captures and interceptions of vessels involved in human trafficking.

Minister of Environment, Milciades Concepción, emphasized the ecological impact of irregular migration on the Guna Yala and Emberá Wounaan regions, citing the accumulation of 6,000 tons of garbage. An estimated B/.12 million is needed to address the ecological damage caused by this situation.

See Also, Darien is Not a Route

Costa Rica Declares Migration Crisis a National Emergency


Soledad Quartucci | CEO/Founder, Latina Republic

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