- Title: Panamanian, Colombian presidents meet to address migration and security issues
- Date: 26th October 2016
- Summary: PUERTO OBALDIA, PANAMA (FILE) (REUTERS) MIGRANTS GATHERED IN PORT AREA MIGRANT FAMILY GATHERED AT PORT AREA MIGRANTS IN LOCAL STREET MIGRANTS MIGRANTS WALKING ON STREET VARIOUS OF MIGRANTS IN MAKESHIFT SHELTER MIGRANT WOMAN AND HER BABY LYING ON BED PASOS CANOAS, COSTA RICA (FILE) (REUTERS) MIGRANTS GATHERED VARIOUS OF MIGRANTS WALKING IN LOCAL STREETS MORE OF MIGRANTS GATHERED
- Embargoed: 10th November 2016 00:03
- Keywords: security border migrants President Juan Carlos Varela President Juan Manuel Santos Panama Colombia
- Location: DARIEN, PUERTO OBALDIA, PANAMA / PASOS CANOAS, COSTA RICA
- City: DARIEN, PUERTO OBALDIA, PANAMA / PASOS CANOAS, COSTA RICA
- Country: Panama
- Topics: Asylum/Immigration/Refugees,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00255I8GN7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Panama's President, Juan Carlos Varela and his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, met in the Panamanian border province of Darien on Tuesday (October 25) to discuss greater cooperation to combat crime and undocumented migrant activity at their porous border.
The meeting took place at the Panama's National Air Service (Senan) base located in Nicanor in Darien and followed a discussion between the two leaders at the United Nations to hold official talks on the issue amidst Colombian peace negotiations with the FARC and fears of a migrant crisis in the region.
Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela announced the Colombian military will help bolster security at its shared border with the Central American nation.
"We will open two more checkpoints for a more secure border. They will have public forces as well as Colombian armed forces. It will protect the border against drug trafficking, specifically people who we call "backpackers" who come in undocumented. Regarding the maritime issue, the purchase of these two vessels is to increase the level of surveillance and detection in Panama," he said.
For decades, Colombian groups such as the FARC have smuggled illicit drugs through Panama on their way north to the United States.
As Colombia seeks a peace deal with the rebels, President Juan Manuel Santos expressed confidence the FARC would reign in any members not abiding by peace terms.
"It has been established that the FARC has good command and control over its organisation. If members of the FARC decide to not go with the peace process then they will face the strength of our armed forces," he said.
Colombia has returned to the negotiating table after a peace deal with the rebels was narrowly voted down by citizens.
Both sides have vowed to come together and review areas of a possible peace deal as they seek to move forward.
Santos said he will listen to "no" voters of the peace referendum in the search for peace.
"I will repeat that all of the agreements signed in the world in the last 30, 40 years will be valid. But we are going to keep on listening, in particular the voices that voted for no," announced President Santos.
Santos and Varela's meeting comes as both leaders grapple with a response to the thousands of Haitians, Cubans and Africans that are passing through the region to eventually reach the United States.
Panama's president has estimated that scores of the U.S.-bound migrants are in dense jungle areas on the Panama-Colombia border without the necessary infrastructure to cope with the surge in undocumented migrants.
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