The Panamanian authorities are experiencing a surge in migrants passing through the Darien Gap, a roadless and lawless tropical strip of land connecting Central and South America, on their way to the US and Canada.
A visit to a temporary camp in Penita on Monday shows the scale the humanitarian crisis on the Colombian-Panamanian border.
In normal times, Penitas is an indigenous village with fewer than 200 inhabitants. They have no running water, mobile phone coverage, medical clinic or regular transportation. These days Penitas is overwhelmed with migrants, who sleep on bunk beds and floor mats in a warehouse or outside in tents.
At Penitas, officials vaccinate migrants for measles, tetanus and rubella and are doing background checks as a security measure before transporting them west. The International Organization for Migrants said it is working with immigration authorities and border police to better manage the camp.
The migrants largely originate from Cuba, Haiti and several African countries, taking various routes to the Darien Gap. The are reportedly fleeing poverty, misery, discrimination, political conflicts, war and extremist violence.