Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras  Busing Migrants North

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By LatAm Reports Editor

Central American nations have initiated a controversial program of transporting migrants northward, raising alarms about the intensification of the border crisis under the Biden administration. In a recent surge, over 14,000 individuals were transported from Panama to Costa Rica in a single week, as part of an agreement to expedite migrant travel north.

Costa Rica is facing a national emergency due to the soaring number of asylum seekers traversing its territory. The crisis has also impacted other countries like Mexico and Honduras, which have started similar bus programs.

While the U.S. has engaged in discussions with Latin American governments to curb the migrant flow, U.S. border apprehensions have hit a record 2.47 million in the fiscal year 2023. Many migrants aim for ‘sanctuary cities’ such as New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Off-the-record, Biden administration officials express concern over the bus initiative, fearing it encourages the hazardous trek and complicates the U.S. border situation. However, publicly, U.S. officials have praised the collaborative efforts of Costa Rica and Panama.

Despite the treacherous nature of the journey, including the perilous Darien Gap crossing, Central American officials defend their policies, labeling them ‘humanitarian’ for providing a safer path for migrants determined to reach the U.S.

The Darien Gap, once a daunting passage, now sees significant traffic, with crossings increasing dramatically over recent years. Panama and Costa Rica initially tightened immigration controls but now offer a regulated busing system, which they claim reduces the dangers of the journey.

The transport program, while intended to offer safer passage, is not without risk or cost. Migrants are required to pay fees at various stages of their journey, and recent tragic accidents in Panama and Mexico have highlighted the enduring risks. Additionally, these fees contribute to the income of bus companies sanctioned by the governments involved.