More than 40 arrested in Panama, Costa Rica raids against migrant smuggling

Panama City/San José, Sep 21 (EFE).- In a joint operation on Tuesday, the authorities of Panama and Costa Rica arrested more than 40 people accused of being part of a migrant smuggling network.

The arrests of more than 20 people in each country were the product of “more than a year of work,” the director of Panama’s National Border Service (Senafront), Oriel Ortega, told Efe.

The binational Operation Twilight was developed during of the crisis derived from the caravans of tens of thousands of migrants trying to get to the United States through Central America.

In Panama, 21 people were detained in 35 raids in the provinces of Panama, where the capital is located, neighboring Panama Oeste, Darién, on the border with Colombia, and Chiriquí, bordering Costa Rica.

First Superior Prosecutor Against Organized Crime, Eneldo Márquez, told Efe that these people are “linked to an organization that was engaged in the smuggling of migrants from the province of Darién to Chiriquí, in order to take [the migrants] to the border between Panama and Costa Rica where they will be trafficked through the Costa Rican territory until they reach Nicaragua.”

In the raids, three vehicles and a boat that were used to transport migrants were seized, said the Public Ministry, while Ortega told Efe that a package of drugs and mobile phones were also seized.

The crime of smuggling migrants in Panama carries penalties of between 15 and 30 years in prison, said prosecutor Márquez.

Meanwhile, the Costa Rican Migration Police reported Tuesday that it detained 21 people in 15 raids near the borders with Panama and Nicaragua, as part of the joint operation.

This criminal organization was thought to be dedicated to smuggling migrants from countries such as Haiti, Cuba, Yemen, Pakistan and Egypt on their way through Central America to the US.

“Each member of the criminal group was assigned joint duties to be able to receive migrants from Panama and later aid them with the border crossing. [The migrants] would be illegally transported through places where [the group] housed and hid the migrants, who were then trafficked through Costa Rican territory, until they reach the northern border and then transfer them to Nicaraguan territory,” added the Costa Rican Migration Police in a statement.

The group charged between $14,000 and $22,000 per person. The investigation also determined that the migrants were ultimately trying to get to the US. EFE


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