Erika Mouynes on Migration

Panama Convenes Important Ministerial Meeting to Agree on Regional Strategies on Migration

Panama is once again the venue for a high-level dialogue to provide comprehensive follow-up to the challenges presented by irregular migration throughout the Western Hemisphere, as rising migration flows, which coincide with specific crises in the countries of origin, continue to affect transit and destination countries. 

The high-level ministerial meeting convened by Panama with the collaboration of the United States will be held on April 19 and 20 at the Bolívar Palace, the headquarters of Panama’s Foreign Ministry, and in a hotel in the Panamanian capital. 

At least 20 countries have already confirmed their attendance, which builds on the first regional ministerial meeting on migration that Panama convened virtually in August 2021, during the peak of the irregular migratory movement across the region. Last year’s meeting welcomed representatives of ten governments to discuss joint actions to address the crisis, prioritizing a comprehensive approach that involved the region’s security and judicial authorities. 

During this unprecedented and successful meeting, marked by the restrictions of the pandemic, it was established that an international response is required to address irregular migration and that criteria for security, solidarity, and respect for human rights must be agreed upon, with co-responsibility distributed among countries of origin, transit, and destination. 

The representatives of Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, Mexico, and Peru, convened by Panama on that first day of regional dialogue on intercontinental and transcontinental irregular migration, recognized that the bulk of irregular migrants travel precariously under the false promise that they will be allowed to enter their country of destination, which for most is the United States, Canada, and Mexico, in that order. It takes several years for migrants to reach their destinations, during which they invest significant sums of money, generally managed by international criminal groups.  

Building on these premises, this week’s meeting will welcome additional stakeholders – including the security and foreign ministers of Caribbean countries and other regional partners, non-governmental organizations, development banks and international multilateral institutions – to attend the discussions, in order for comprehensive solutions to be generated at this meeting. 

The support of the United States for this initiative – with the presence of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who are traveling to Panama for the first time – is manifested in the agenda of the meeting, which includes key Panamanian priorities such as the strengthening of institutions to address root causes of migration and the fight against corruption to ensure the stability of democracies. 

“For more than a year we have been working with the United States and other important partners to find common ground and areas of shared interest to address this phenomenon and avoid an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the region. This is a matter that we cannot resolve alone. We have the opportunity to establish new and effective collaborative mechanisms for specific issues and we are starting with the comprehensive and holistic management of irregular migration. Gathered in Panama, ministers from all over the hemisphere can reach historic achievements”, declared Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes ahead of the meeting. 

The Ministerial Meeting on Migration in Panama is emerging as one of the most important post-pandemic events in the region, due to the high profile of the participants and because it builds on the technical and political meetings that have been taking place on this issue at Panama’s invitation. 

The working sessions will be held during the morning of Wednesday, April 20 in groups separated by competences, and the plenary session will be held in the afternoon of the same day, with a closing session that previews conclusions and recommendations agreed during the meeting. 

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