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First Day of Meetings in Panama

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Susan is on the move! With her busy schedule of visits and meetings she is sending us quick text updates whenever she gets a break and we will pass them along as they come in. (A brief analysis of  Susan’s thoughts follow):

Terminamos el primer día de reuniones en Panama. La oficina del ACNUR pone la mayor atención a la reforma legal para conseguir acceso a la protección y la integración. Quiero hablar con los mismos colombianos para escuchar sus opiniones Al respeto. Parece muy difícil para alguien con pocos recursos. ¿Donde encuentran esperanza? de Los 50 solicitantes de asilo el mes pasado, solo 2 casos serán presentados a la Comisión para Refugiados para evaluarlos. Ninguno de Los casos es colombiano. Me refiero a Los 2 casos.  De Los 50 solicitantes, la mayoría son colombianos

We have finished the first day of meetings in Panama. The UNHCR office puts greater emphasis on the legal reforms needed to create access to protection and integration. I want to talk to the Colombians to hear their thoughts on the subject. It seems very difficult for someone with few resources. Where do they find hope? Of the fifty asylum seekers last month, only two cases will be presented to the Refugee Commission for evaluation. Neither of those two cases is Colombian although the majority of applicants were Colombian.

When Susan mentions the UNHCR office’s focus on “legal reforms” she is referring to their strategy implementation. Their strategy, outlined here, lists a three tiered approach, based on the principles agreed to in the Mexico Plan of action.  It seems that UNHCR is utilizing its resources to concentrate solely on the first agreed upon principle, Cities of Solidarity, which according to the UNHCR, “supports the local integration and self-reliance of people in need of international protection in urban areas. It aims to ensure that refugees receive health care, education, access to employment and housing, on par with services provided to nationals.”  While we believe that this is a much needed facet for the work of the UNHCR, to be myopic in focus does not provide the much needed relief to refugees forced into marginalization in dangerous jungle area camps. Access and referral to third country resettlement is a viable durable solution for many Colombian refugees in this region and especially in Panama.

Susan also commented on their material needs: “It seems very difficult for someone with few resources. Where do they find hope?”

Access to the labor market is a continuing problem facing many refugees seeking protection in neighboring countries. This is true not only for refugees denied legal status by host governments (who are then de facto economic migrants in the eyes of the state), but also for legally recognized refugees who face xenophobia and employment discrimination despite holding work permits. Living in limbo creates insecurity and daily fear for refugees in unrecognized, unfunded and underserved camps in the jungle regions of Panama as well as those refugees living under the constant fear of detention and deportation in Panama city.

We will pass along more observations and analysis as it comes in. For now Susan is on the move again already:

Hoy viajamos de la capital a Jaqué y Puerto Piña en la región de Darién.

Panamá es un país de muchos recursos e inversiones extranjeras pero también de mucha desigualdad económica.

A pesar de las patrullas de a policía fronteriza no hay presencia del ACNUR en Darién.

Today we traveled from the capital to Jaqué and Puerto Piña in the Darién region.

Panama is a country of vast resources and foreign investments, but also of wide gaps in inequality.

Even though there is a police presence along the border, there is no UNHCR presence in Darién.

Check back soon for more. Subscribe to this blog’s feed to get updates on when new information is coming in, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook and add your voice to the growing conversation.

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