RHUs in Panama accommodating refugees on their treacherous journey along the Darién Gap

Region: Americas
Country: Panama
Year: 2021
Shelter: RHU
Project size: 0-50
Modality: Transit centres
Sector: Shelter, Protection
Partner: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Support: Capacity Building

Panama is a small country, but with historical significance as a strategic point of migration between South and North America.

The San Vincente Migration Reception Centre in Meteti, southern Panama is one of the first stops where migrants arrive upon entering the Panama border. The San Vincente Centre receives the migratory populations in most need of protection and humanitarian assistance for its proximity to the Darién Gap.

The Darién Gap is a geographic region inbetween Panama and Colombia, made of hundreds of kilometres of dense, mountainous jungle and swamp, with conditions that are virtually untouchable by humans. In 2021, more than 120,000 people, desperate to escape conflict and seek asylum in North America, made this cross border journey, often on foot, and in constant exposure to trafficking by organised crime groups, sexual violence and extortion.

While most of the migrant population were Haitian or Venezuelan nationals, others from Cuba and other African and Asian countries were among this migrant group.

To scale up the reception capacity of the San Vincente Centre, UNHCR donated 48 RHUs to accommodate the arriving populations in need of protection, health and shelter services, until they continue their journey to their ultimate destination – the United States.

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