(AP) — A group of migrants stranded for weeks near Panama’s border with Colombia threatened to burn the shelter where they are stuck, demanding that authorities let them cross the country on their own to the Costa Rica border and on to the United States.
The migrants from Africa, southern Asia, Haiti and Cuba crossed into Panama through the dangerous Darien Gap from Colombia. But border closings throughout Central America due to the coronavirus pandemic have left them stranded at shelters in Peñitas, just over the border, for almost two months.
About 2,000 migrants at the camp have complained about water and sanitation conditions and fear catching the coronavirus, but Panamanian authorities said Wednesday they will not be allowed to continue their journey.
Police went to the camp to turn back those trying to leave.
“After a dialogue with the migrants, they were informed that there can be no movement toward the border with Costa Rica, because of the existence of COVID-19, and they have peacefully returned to the Peñitas station,” the National Border Service wrote in its Twitter account.
The migrants say many of them have run out of money to buy food and water at the isolated camp. About 15 migrants have been reported to have been infected with the coronavirus, but the number appears not to have grown in weeks.
Panama has reported 357 coronavirus deaths, the highest number in Central America.