The ongoing socio-political crisis in Nicaragua has caused large numbers of Nicaraguans to migrate to neighboring nations in Latin America. Similar to Costa Rica, Panama is facing numerous issues related to the influx of Nicaraguan migrants.
According to Panamanian Director of the National Migration Service, Samira Gozaine, the new immigration policies implemented by Guatemala and Mexico have shifted Nicaraguan migrants south. The intensification of border security by the two nations has stymied Nicaraguan migration to the United States.
Nicaraguan nationals tend to enter Panama illegally to gain residency.
A total of 52,351 Nicaraguans entered Panama in 2019, while 42,571 left, leaving a net migration of 9,780. Similar numbers were reported by Panama immigration officials, 53,940 entering and 44,156 left, with a net migration of 9,784.
Of the Nicaraguan migrants entering Panama, few apply for legal residency: 777 in 2019 and 714 in 2018.
Nicaraguans were the third most deported nationality behind Venezuelans and Colombians, respectively.
Panama also faces large flows of northbound migration from its border with Colombia. Hundreds of migrants from South America, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean enter Panama through the Darien Jungle as a transit point to the United States.
The Director of Migration Gozaine attributes Panama’s migration problems to the Controlled Flow Policy it has with Costa Rica.
The purpose of the agreement was to allow the passage of thousands of U.S.-bound Cuban migrants attempting to cross through Costa Rica and Panama. After Nicaragua sealed its border to migrants in late 2015, the agreement was made to ease the transition of stranded migrants to reach the United States.
However, the agreement has allowed migrants to enter Costa Rica and Panama in large numbers, at times overwhelming government resources.
Source: Center for Immigration Studies