At Least 44 US-Bound Migrants Arrested After Migrants Destroy Shelter, Vehicles In Fight: REPORT

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John Oyewale Contributor
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Panamanian authorities arrested 44 migrants after a fight broke out early Saturday at a shelter, leading to the destruction of 10 modular shelter units and vehicles, according to official statements.

An altercation ensued between two female migrants over a tent in the San Vicente temporary immigration reception station, according to a statement by Panama’s Security Ministry.

The partners of both migrants reportedly intervened in the incident, triggering a “fight” between the different groups, according to the statement. Panama’s National Border Service, SENAFRONT, reportedly attempted to restore order, but were challenged by approximately 250 migrants and required reinforcements, the statement noted.

The “migrants caused serious damage to the San Vicente shelter, where they destroyed official and civilian vehicles,” and set at least 10 modular units on fire, according to the statement. Pictures appearing to show burning and burned trailers and a government pickup truck with deflated tires accompanied the statement.

The 44 “migrants who participated in these acts of vandalism have been identified and detained and will be investigated and prosecuted before the public ministry for damage to state property,” according to the statement.

The authorities did not report any casualties in the statement. (RELATED: Illegal Immigrant Charged With Murder Of Toddler After Multiple Prior Arrests, ICE Spox Says)

The San Vicente shelter “was one of the most modern and dignified facilities,” with “basic services to provide humanitarian care to this population” and “the capacity to house about 500 people,” according to the statement.

Samira Gozaine, Director of Panama’s National Migration Service, said the vandalism resulted in over $800,000 in losses.

Almost 250,000 migrants crossed the approximately 60-mile Darién Gap, between Panama and northern Colombia in 2022 in their northward march to the U.S., according to Human Rights Watch. More than 130,000 migrants crossed in 2021, far exceeding the fewer than 11,000 per year on average estimated to have crossed in the prior decade, according to the organization. By July 2023, the number of crossings surpassed 250,000, according to the organization.

More than 520,000 migrants crossed the Darién Gap by the end of 2023, a quarter of them being minors, Reuters reported. Venezuelan economic migrants reportedly contributed to the spike, in addition to migrants from Ecuador, Haiti and China, among others.

Gozaine reportedly called the situation “a national security problem.”