Migrants that Seek Returning to Venezuela Continue Arriving at Make-shift Shelters in Panama

    These travelers, who arrived in Panama after crossing the dangerous Darién jungle, are opting for voluntary return after the United States announced a new policy on October 12th

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    Venezuelan irregular migrants who have given up continuing their journey to the United States and are looking for a plane ticket for returning to their country continued arriving this week at a “temporary shelter” set up in Panama City by the Venezuelan Embassy.

    They keep coming

    The Venezuelan diplomatic mission is organizing the voluntary return trips that the travelers themselves must pay for, informed Panamanian authorities that provide support on the spot.

    In the shelter, a shed located in a sector of the Panamanian capital, there were around “1,100 people” this past Monday, after about 300 left on two flights to Venezuela on Sunday night, said the director of the National Migration Service (SNM) from Panama, Samira Gozaine.

    “But they keep coming, so the numbers keep increasing,” the official added in remarks to journalists at the gates of this temporary facility. The migrants, many with children, are distributed in the shed in small spaces not physically separated, which have mats. Few wanted to talk.

    One of them commented that he arrived at the Tocumen airport, the main airport in Panama, to buy his ticket and was told that “it cost 180 dollars.” He had to go to the Venezuelan consulate to “fill out some papers” and once in the temporary shelter they told him that “the ticket costs $280.”

    Market supply-demand

    It is a question “of market supply-demand, we cannot tell a business or company what to charge,” Gozaine commented on the cost of the tickets. “We know that there are some donors who have helped people complete the money,” said Gozaine, who pointed out that the Venezuelan diplomatic mission “does not have the capacity to pay for flights to the whole world” and what it is doing is “ organize in groups so that the flights are filled.

    In the capital’s temporary shelter, religious groups and the Venezuelan community assist the migrants with donations of food and medicine, as does the Panamanian Immigration office.

    «My destiny was to reach the United States, where I have a cousin who was going to receive me, but since it was not possible, only God knows why he does things, we remained unemployed in Panama (…) it makes me a little sad» return to Venezuela after everything I experienced on the journey, “but I want to be with my family,” a young 28-year-old Venezuelan migrant told.

    These travelers, who arrived in Panama after crossing the dangerous Darién jungle, are opting for voluntary return after the United States announced a new policy on October 12th: all Venezuelan nationals who arrive in the country after having irregularly crossed the border from Panama or Mexico will be expelled immediately to Mexican territory.

    Record numbers

    Panama is the gateway to Central America from the south and until last Saturday a record number of 204,986 irregular migrants had passed through its territory, 71.8% of them Venezuelans, according to official figures provided.

    There is information that many of these Venezuelan migrants supposedly intend to travel from other Central American countries and Mexico to Panamanian territory to take a flight here or cross the Darién again.

    Gozaine already warned on Sunday that Venezuelan migrants who have a valid “authorized visa” will only be able to enter Panama from the north, through the border with Costa Rica.

    The official said that the SNM is offering the migrants who are in the shed waiting financial aid to buy the ticket, to take them to the migration station that this organization has in Los Planes de Gualaca, near the border with Costa Rica.

    “Here we will continue to provide assistance and try to convince them that the best thing for them is to go with us to Los Planes de Gualaca so that we can assist them in a dignified manner and be able to give them more help,” he added.

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