PANAMA City – UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly T. Clements, today called on the international community to intensify efforts to improve the situation of refugees and migrants in the Americas, as she concluded a two-day visit to Panama.

“As the situation deteriorates, we require greater cooperation and support from the international community to provide vulnerable people with alternatives to dangerous and irregular journeys in the Americas”, Clements said.

Clements’s visit comes as the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Darien jungle – between Colombia and Panama – on foot last year reached 520,000, the highest recorded. So far this year, over 23,000 people have undertaken the perilous journey.

“While the number of those moving northwards continues to rise, Latin American countries are hosting the majority of displaced people, demonstrating solidarity and offering solutions and alternatives along the route, in countries of origin, transit and destination,” Clements added.

On 24 January, the Deputy High Commissioner attended the VI Annual Meeting of the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS) during which countries in the region committed to redoubling efforts to address forced displacement.

She also travelled to the Darien and attended the opening of a local branch of Panama’s National Refugee Office (ONPAR) in the town of Metetí, in the province of Darien. This office will ensure that individuals who cross the Darien can seek asylum and have access to documentation and basic services.

The challenges posed by complex refugee and migrant movements in the Americas must be approached from a comprehensive and collaborative regional perspective, Clements said. “We need to provide increased aid to vulnerable individuals, reinforce support to host communities, and expand resettlement opportunities and access to other regular mechanisms for support. This strategy is crucial for managing well the complex issues at hand at this important moment”.

For more information, please contact:

  • In Panama: Analía Kim, UNHCR, kiman@unhcr.org, +507 6898 1846
  • In Panama: Viola Eleonora Bruttomesso, bruttome@unhcr.org, +507 6646 3469
  • In Washington: Kevin Keen, keen@unhcr.org, +1 202 914 8172
  • In Geneva: William Spindler, UNHCR, spindler@unhcr.org, +41 79 549 5998


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