The ongoing armed conflict in the Republic of Colombia for half a century has caused the displacement of 10% of its population to neighboring countries in search of protection.
One preferred by Colombian victims of clashes between the militia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army, is Panama countries.
Statistics from the National Bureau for the Care of Refugees (ONPAR) of Panama, since 2000 to date reveal that Panama has sheltered 1,930 Colombians self-proclaimed victims of armed conflict in their country.
The figure includes 85% of refugees recognized by this office, attached to the Ministry of Government.
The remaining 15% of victims have chosen to settle in other countries like Venezuela, Cuba and, in smaller numbers, in Asian countries.
The Office of the United Nations attention to Refugees (UNHCR), with regional headquarters in Panama, argues that these numbers are only a sample of what actually happens, as movements of displaced toward Panama.
The geographical position and economic factors as ‘dollarized’ are, according to the UNHCR, the main attraction for the displaced.
However, the Darien jungle serves as a barrier that prevents further wave of refugees, so, according to a spokesman for the office, who moved to Panama seeking other migratory mechanisms for asylum.
The National Migration System keeps track of about 4,400 Colombians with a legal status of long-term stay in the country, a figure which the UNHCR referred to as » other immigration mechanisms «for asylum.
From the National Institute for Women (INAMU) they have identified other causes for refugees from various sources to address Panama.
Gender violence is one of them.
‘Almost 50% of refugees in the country are women who have fled with their children, by violence,’ says Eyra Harbar, a lawyer specializing in international protection of this institute.
The Panamanian government, by international convention, is obliged not to return the country to people who cry shelter until his case reviewed.
But from the year 2010 to date, a wave of economic migrants are confused with those seeking refuge, somehow prolonging the waiting period for approval of this benefit.
Last year were recognized some 1,240 requests.
Ernesto Chong de León, Ernesto Emilio Chong Coronado