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Thursday, June 1, 2023

US seeks to expand secure pathways for migration

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday in Panama that his country seeks to expand “safe, orderly and legal pathways” for migration as an alternative to dangerous clandestine crossings.

Mayorkas held a working meeting with the foreign ministers of Panama, Janaina Tewaney, and Colombia, Alvaro Leyva, as the number of irregular migrants in search of the American dream crossing the inhospitable Darien jungle, on the Colombian-Panamanian border, reaches a new record.

“Those seeking to come to the United States should take advantage of the safe, orderly and legal pathways we are presenting to them,” Mayorkas told reporters at the close of the meeting in Panama City.

“The United States has significantly increased those pathways, as have our partners, and we seek to continue to expand them as an alternative to the dangerous journey that many undertake,” he added.

Some 100,000 people have crossed the Darien jungle this year on their way to the United States, six times more than in the same period last year, according to data provided to AFP by the Panamanian National Migration System.

In 2022 almost 250,000 migrants crossed this jungle, a natural border 266 km long and 575,000 hectares plagued by dangers such as wild animals, raging rivers and criminal groups.

At least 52 migrants died in 2022 in the jungle, according to official figures, but Panamanian authorities do not know the real figure due to inaccessible terrain, lack of reporting and abandonment of bodies.

Risks accompany migrants not only in the jungle, but throughout their journey: on February 15, 40 migrants died when a bus overturned in western Panama and another 40 died on March 27 in a detention center fire in Ciudad Juarez, in northern Mexico.

Most of the migrants crossing the Darien are Venezuelans, Haitians and Ecuadorians, although there are also Asians, mainly from China and India, and Africans, mainly from Cameroon and Somalia.

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