The acting Homeland Security secretary of the United States, Kevin McAleenan, called for cooperation from Central American countries and Colombia to combat irregular migration from Asia and Africa.
Fighting that migration is a “regional challenge” because the criminal organizations “that we are trying to address are cross-border,” McAleenan said Thursday in Panama.
“The only way we can achieve this is by collaborating together to share information and concrete actions” that allow “to expand our impact and address the extracontinental flow,” he added.
The US official made these statements during the inauguration of a meeting with security ministers and migration officials from Central America and Colombia.
He acknowledged that the challenges “are different” for each country, but he was satisfied by greater support from Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia.
“I think that in the last two months, involving Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia, there has been a very positive developments in this discussion,” he said.
“Being transnational crime, we must work together; we can’t do anything by working individually,” said Colombian Migration Director Christian Krüger.
He asked countries to pay attention to migration from Venezuela because “it can put the region at risk.”
The United States intends to cut the flow of undocumented immigrants who reach their borders through South America and Central America.
Many of these migrants cross the inhospitable Panamanian jungle of Darién, which borders Colombia.
Migration from Asia and Africa
During the first six months of the year, more than 13,600 migrants from India, Cameroon, Congo, Angola and Guinea have crossed that route — along with Cubans and Haitians — seeking to reach the United States.
Of that figure, 2,139 were children, triple that in the same period of the previous year, and 50 were pregnant women.
The route crosses an untamed forest with mountains, rivers, and without established overland routes. Along the way, migrants face poisonous snakes, jaguars, spiders, scorpions, lizards, African bees and criminal groups.
This increase in migrants has meant that the Panamanian government has had to enable several humanitarian aid centers in the country, where foreigners are provided with basic services and their exit to Costa Rica is facilitated.
“We are talking about human beings, who are torn from their homes of origin by unscrupulous people who charge large amounts of money to move them, selling them a dream that is almost never fulfilled,” said Panama Security Minister Rolando Mirones.
According to the U.S. newspaper The Washington Post, McAleenan proposed that Panama accept migrants who were turned away by US authorities, but that report was rejected by the official and also by President Laurentino Cortizo.
“The United States, with all the resources it has, needs the help of our countries to face this phenomenon,” said Julián Pacheco, Secretary of State for National Security of Honduras.
To combat this phenomenon, the United States “must understand” that the countries of the region need “the support and competition of their government,” Pacheco added.
“We are sure that the strengthening we are developing at the regional level is historic,” said Enrique Degenhart, Guatemalan Minister of Government.