World Refugee Day 2007 National Activities: Panama
World Refugee Day, 20 June 2007
UNHCR hosted a commemorative event at the UN Information Centre in Panama, to which members of the diplomatic community and national government were invited. Handicrafts made by refugees in Panama were on sale.
Panama's National Office for Refugee Affairs gave a series of talks throughout the week on topics such as the rights and responsibilities of refugees, and the different ways to deal with the stress of relocating to a new country. Officials answered questions from refugees.
The Panamanian Red Cross held a picnic and recreational day for refugees living in Panama City. Events included a talent show, various games and magicians.
VIDA directed a series of activities for children and young adults in Jaqué and Vista Alegre to highlight the importance of family in refugee communities. Activities included photography and essay contests and the production of personalized T-shirts.
UNHCR collaborated with the Jesuit Refugee Service on a refugee-theme drawing contest at two schools in Panama City. Talks on refugee issues were given to the participating classes, after which the students designed and created drawings representing the asylum experience. Prizes were awarded to the winning students and the schools.
- UNHCR welcomes new law giving refugees chance for Panama residency
- Refugee status and clean water "change everything" for indigenous Colombians
- Real Madrid trains refugee children in Panama City suburb
- Colombian indigenous culture flourishes again in Panama
- Indigenous Kuna children and Colombian refugees live and study together in Panama
UNHCR country pages
Panama's Hidden Refugees
Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.
Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.
Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.
There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.