Panamanian authorities announced Saturday that they will inspect the buses that cross the entire country, from the Colombian border to the Costa Rican border, transporting migrants on their way to the United States, after the fire in one of these vehicles and the accident of another in which 40 people died.
“Due to the events that occurred consecutively, it has been decided to carry out a rigorous inspection of all vehicles” transporting migrants who have crossed the Darien jungle, the Transit and Land Transportation Authority said in a statement posted on Twitter.
The government’s decision comes after buses that are part of the humanitarian corridor to transport migrants from Panama’s eastern to western border suffered two incidents in the last ten days.
On February 15, at least 40 migrants were killed when one of these vehicles fell into a ravine in Gualaca, Chiriqui province, some 400 km west of Panama City.
Panamanian authorities said last week that “it will take time” to identify the migrants in the bus crash, which included Ecuadorians, Venezuelans, Haitians and Cubans.
The second incident occurred early Saturday morning, when a bus carrying 57 migrants caught fire early Saturday morning on the Pan-American highway near the province of Veraguas, located in the middle of the humanitarian corridor, with no injuries reported by authorities.
The causes of the accident are under investigation, indicated the Attorney General’s Office.
Migration added in a bulletin that for the last 10 years the Government has subcontracted to private companies the service of buses of the humanitarian corridor for migrants who “enter Panama in an irregular way”.
Due to the inspection that will begin on Sunday, the transfer of migrants will be temporarily suspended, the director of the National Migration Service, Samira Gozaine, told journalists.
According to official data, a record 248,000 people, mostly Venezuelans, crossed the Darien in 2022. This year 37,000 migrants have already crossed, a fifth of them children.