A top US security official traveled to the Darien Gap earlier this month to get a first-hand look at what the White House characterized as the “urgent humanitarian situation and growing migration challenge” in this dense jungle corridor connecting South and Central America that has been flooded with Venezuelan, Haitian, and other migrants moving northward from Colombia over the past 18 months.
Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall, who visited both sides of the inhospitable Darien Gap in Colombia and Panama from September 5-7, focused her time in the region at assessing ways to reduce irregular migration and provide humanitarian relief, according to the White House.
This included a sit down with Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo where they discussed how to collaborate on strategies to “increase enforcement measures to deter irregular movement” as well as expand “safe legal pathways for migration,” per the White House.
The US advisor “expressed appreciation for the important contribution Panama is making in offering Temporary Protected Status to migrants in Panama within the framework of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection,” said the White House in a statement.
According to a recent New York Times report, citing official Panamanian figures, more than 360,000 people have crossed the Darien Gap in 2023. In all of 2022, the total hit roughly 250,000 — which was at the time a new record-high that greatly surpassed the volume of migration seen in a year.
In Colombia, Sherwood-Randall met with Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva.
The two officials continued to focus on discussing the humanitarian crisis and environmental effects of the Darien migration surge as well as the “important initiatives that Colombia is pursuing in collaboration with the United States to disrupt transnational criminal groups that are exploiting migrants.”