Panama, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic ask for U.S. help on migration


FILE PHOTO: Migrants are seen at temporary shelter during acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan's visit in the village of La Penita, Panama August 23, 2019. REUTERS/Erick Marciscano

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - The presidents of Panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic on Wednesday asked for U.S. assistance in stemming the flow of thousands of migrants crossing the dangerous jungles that divide Panama and Colombia as they make their way to the United States.

Panama's President Laurentino Cortizo hosted a meeting with Costa Rica's Carlos Alvarado Quesada and Dominican Republic's Luis Abinader in Panama City on Wednesday, where they discussed the burgeoning migrant crisis.

Cortizo said that so far this year a record number of more than 100,000 undocumented migrants have trekked north from Colombia through the Darien Gap, a lawless jungle teeming with everything from deadly snakes to anti-government guerrillas.

The United Nations children's agency UNICEF said earlier this month that some 19,000 migrant children have crossed the Darien Gap so far in 2021, almost three times higher than the total for the previous five years.

Cortizo said the situation demands concrete solutions and that Washington should play an active role in assisting.

The Latin American leaders agreed "that our foreign ministers urgently articulate with the U.S. authorities and other countries to ... look for concrete measures," he added.

The presidents discussed the possibility of establishing a strategy of investments and job creation in Haiti, home to many of the migrants.

Cortizo said that he is seeking a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden during the United Nations' COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

In early 2021, Panamanian authorities had warned of a possible crisis after opening the borders that had for months been closed because of the pandemic.

By September, the immigration authorities of the Central American nation reported a record number of 91,305 migrants who entered from neighboring Colombia. Of these, 56,676 were Haitians and 12,870 Cubans.

(Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by Anthony Esposito Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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