The defence Ministers of Colombia and Panama are scheduled to meet towards the end of January. This high-level meeting, confirmed by Panama’s Security Minister Juan Manuel Pino, will focus on the pressing issues of security and migration along the shared border between the two nations.
Addressing migration and security challenges
The upcoming meeting is set against the backdrop of escalating migration challenges in the region. Recent statistics indicate a substantial increase in migrant flow, with over 520,000 individuals from 60 different countries recorded in 2023 alone. This surge in migration has brought to the forefront the urgent need for effective management strategies and cooperative efforts between neighboring countries.
Colombia, under the leadership of Defense Minister Iván Velásquez, is expected to play a pivotal role in these discussions. The meeting aims to establish a framework for collaboration in addressing the complexities of regional migration and security threats. The focus will be on enhancing border security, sharing intelligence, and developing joint strategies to combat human trafficking and other cross-border crimes.
Broader regional collaboration
In addition to the bilateral meeting, Panama is proposing a more comprehensive regional conference involving officials from Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Haiti, Cuba, and Costa Rica. This conference, planned for the end of February, is envisioned as a platform for countries in the region to exchange information and coordinate efforts against human trafficking networks. The proposal underscores the recognition that migration and security are not just bilateral issues but require a concerted regional response.
The Colombian Defense Minister’s support for this initiative is seen as crucial, given Colombia’s strategic position and experience in dealing with migration and security challenges. The discussions are expected to cover a range of topics, including the management of migrant flows through the Darien Gap, a notorious and perilous passage for migrants heading north.
Extension of operations contributing to peace and security in the southern hemisphere
The meeting also coincides with the extension of ‘Operation Choco II’, a significant regional security initiative led by Panama. This operation, now extended for an additional six months, reflects Panama’s commitment to contributing to peace and security in the southern hemisphere. It is particularly focused on managing the northward flow of migrants, which has been a growing concern for countries in the region.
The operation has been instrumental in curbing illegal activities associated with migration, such as human trafficking and smuggling. The extension of this operation is a testament to its effectiveness and the ongoing need for such measures.