Haitian Bridge Alliance leads Delegation to Panama to Investigate Impacts of Regional Immigration Policies and Abuses Suffered by People Seeking Refuge


Taisha Saintil, Haitian Bridge Alliance, tsaintil@haitianbridge.org
Blaine Bookey, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, bookeybl@uchastings.edu | (415) 703-8202
Anthony Enriquez, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, enriquez@rfkhumanrights.org | (917) 941-9141
Carolyn Tran, Communities United for Status and Protection, carolyn@wearecusp.org | (415) 377-4711

November 10, 2022 – The Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA) led a delegation of human rights defenders—composed of thirteen representatives from HBA, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS), Communities United for Status and Protection (CUSP), Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and Panamanian advocates —to Panama from October 21 through October 29, 2022, to investigate the migration process and reception and treatment of people seeking refuge. The delegation traveled across the country, observing migrant reception centers in Panama’s Darién Province along the southern border with Colombia and in Panama’s Chiriquí Province along its northern border with Costa Rica. In these regions and in Panama City, the delegation spoke with dozens of refugees and met with government officials, civil society representatives, and international organizations. 

 “Given this spiraling situation in Haiti, many Haitians may be harmed or even killed if they stay in Haiti. They are forced to migrate in search of safety, often making this long and dangerous journey through the Americas to the U.S. Mexico border, where they hope to seek protection and join their family in the United States,” says Guerline Jozef, co-founder and Executive Director of Haitian Bridge Alliance. “Instead of receiving access to their right of protection, many Haitian asylum seekers along the border are dying of violence and medical neglect as they wait for months and even years for the chance to enter the United States – blocked by Title 42 policies that have closed the border to asylum seekers since March 2020.” 

 The delegation will release a report on its findings as part of a push for a comprehensive assessment of the human impacts of States’ migration policy in the Americas and State compliance with commitments made in the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. The delegation was first organized in response to reports the organizations received from Haitian migrants of violence and a lack of protection in Panama’s Darién Gap, including gruesome stories of sexual and gender-based violence. The investigation also sought to understand the key role Panama’s Darién Gap plays for people in migration through the Americas and to document the human impacts of the United States and other States’ immigration policies on people exercising their right to human mobility and seeking protection throughout the region and (non)access to justice where their rights are violated. Along with meeting and interviewing Haitians in migration, the delegation spoke with people in mobility from Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and Africa, and witnessed the cruelty inflicted by the United States October 12 policy change towards Venezuelan refugees.