Warning that as many as 60,000 more migrants are making their way to the U.S. border, Panama’s foreign minister says the Biden administration seemed caught off guard by the Haitian migrant crisis after “we sounded the alarm.”
Foreign minister Erika Mouynes told Axios in an interview that most of the new migrants are Haitian, and her country expects more migrants to cross through the dangerous jungles of the Darién Gap this month than the nearly 27,000 who crossed in all of 2019.
“We’ve engaged with every single authority that we can think of, that we can come across, to say, ‘Please, let’s pay attention to this,'” Mouynes said.
Mouynes, who had meetings this week with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said more than 85,000 migrants, most of them Haitians, have passed through Panama since January.
About 20,000 to 25,000 Haitians have already made the trek to the U.S.-Mexico border, she said, with most being allowed to enter the United States. And there’s another 30,000 in neighoring Colombia hoping to get to Panama to continue their trek north.
Mouynes said senior officials from the U.S., Canada, Mexico and South American countries met in August to address the issue. The foreign minister told Axios she thought it was “shocking” that such a meeting had not happened sooner.
She met with members of Congress and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas earlier this week, but she wants more meetings between the U.S. and other countries to sort out how to control the flood of migrants.
And she wants Haiti involved in the discussions to get to the root of the problem.
“We all have a role to play in this issue, and the regional approach is the correct approach,” Mouynes told Axios. “It is impossible for Panama to solve it on its own.”
She said that when the migrants are received in Panama, they’re malnourished.
“The children are in terrible condition, so even getting them up to a healthy state takes time,” the foreign minister told Axios.
Mayorkas acknowledged on Sunday that the vast majority of the Haitian migrants have been released into the U.S.
As many as 12,000, he told “Fox News Sunday” had been released until their court date. Some 3,000 were in detention at the time, and 5,000 were still awaiting the processing of their cases.
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