Following bilateral talks on Friday between Presidents Rodrigo Chaves of Costa Rica and Laurentino Cortizo of Panama, the two nations have announced a joint agreement to provide direct bus transport for migrants traveling northwards. The plan aims to swiftly move migrants from the Darien region of Panama to Costa Rica’s border with Nicaragua.
Under the deal, approximately 200 passenger buses will be made available to transfer migrants directly from Darien to Costa Rica’s Migrant Attention Center, known as CATEM. After being briefly processed at CATEM, the migrants will promptly board buses again for the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border crossing at Peñas Blancas.
“The goal for Costa Rica is for citizens to barely notice these migrant movements. We don’t want tents lining our streets,” affirmed President Chaves during the summit with his Panamanian counterpart.
Currently, migrants pay $40 to travel from the Lajas Blancas community in Darien to reach the Costa Rican frontier. The new state-sponsored bus transport will cover this leg of their journey, with migrants then paying an additional fare to arrive at Peñas Blancas under safe and formal transit.
“The aim is for them to stay at CATEM for the shortest time possible. They won’t leave the center, only undergo quick processing and continue paying to reach Peñas Blancas,” Chaves elaborated.
Officials estimate the buses could relocate around 3,000 migrants daily from Panama to the Nicaraguan border. This controlled transfer would provide order and prevent migrants from being stranded in Costa Rican towns.
While details are pending, the buses will be supplied jointly between both countries and include licensed drivers and full insurance coverage. The Costa Rican government emphasized that establishing protected transit for migrants can prevent humanitarian issues and minimize disruptions to local communities.
Both Presidents Chaves and Cortizo called for collaborative solutions between all nations involved in mass migration flows, including Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and the United States. Mexico has proposed a multi-country summit on October 22nd to address the crisis, a notion supported by Costa Rica and Panama.
“Mexico is leading this, and we strongly endorse backing such a conference without excluding any country,” commented President Cortizo on Friday.
Chaves concurred, stating: “All implicated nations must take part to reach concrete, immediate answers.”
The Costa Rican leader visited Panama last Thursday, meeting President Cortizo to discuss bilateral strategies the next day. Chaves toured Darien by air to observe key migrant crossing points and visited a transit camp at Lajas Blancas.
The ability to provide safe, orderly transport to relocate migrants could provide critical relief for both Costa Rica and Panama. While details are still unconfirmed, the busing agreement represents a coordinated attempt to address an issue overwhelming much of the region.