Global Compact for Refugees - UNHCR



Panama officially agreed to join the process leading to the MIRPS in July 2017. In recent years, Panama has been faced with an increasing number of asylum-seekers and refugees, mainly coming from North of Central America, Colombia and Venezuela. According to the National Office for the Attention of Refugees (ONPAR), during the first half of 2018 over 2,500 asylum-seekers reached Panama and are currently undergoing the asylum process. The Panama MIRPS chapter was developed through a national consultation process that took stock of previously assumed commitments made in within the framework of the Brazil Plan of Action and the San Jose Action Statement. The national consultations benefitted from a wide range of participants including national and governmental institutions, UN agencies, civil society organizations, the private sector and donors. Particular importance was given to the perspectives of persons of concern, most of which were consulted in Panama City and Colón. Based on these consultations, a National Operational Plan (NOP) is being developed to define strategies, programmes and actions to strengthen protection and solutions for asylum-seekers and refugees in Panama. In order to coordinate the process leading to a NOP, an Executive Board has been established, consisting of the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNHCR.


Delivering on existing commitments

Progress in delivering on the commitments has been made under each MIRPS pillar through:

  • The capacity building of State officials posted in border areas on effective access to the right to seek asylum, profiles of asylum-seekers and refugees and applicable national legislation, reinforcing the application of non-penalization for irregular entry.
  • Developing human rights-centred public policies that favour the inclusion, integration and durable solutions for asylum-seekers and refugees, by passing legislation that allows for the opportunity to apply for permanent residency and access to receive an indefinite work permit.
  • Enhancing the self-reliance of refugees through providing refugees with permanent residency that allows them to access Panama’s banking services.
  • Establishing and consolidating mechanisms to enable refugees and asylum-seekers to take advantage of public and social policies that enhance their local integration as well as access the public or private healthcare system.
  • Providing access to schools and universities, and making progress in implementing a specific decree, thereby reducing the processing time of the qualification validation and enrolment. A guide and procedural handbook to ensure nationwide implementation of the decree are being developed.

Prioritized commitments for Panama’s National Operational Plan

As a result of the National Consultation process conducted by the Government of Panama in the framework of the MIRPS, a number of actions were prioritized, such as:

  • The development of a new Executive Decree on the recognition of the refugee status, which was approved in early 2018. This constitutes a milestone in the protection of refugees in Panama as it reduces the processing time of refugee status determination and increases efficiency in their documentation process.
  • Enhancing data exchange and storage, as well as the creation of a database available for public institutions to access refugee status information. Thus far, an online registration system was put in place, in order to help asylum-seekers submit their applications online and allow authorities to check the veracity of the document and the status of the application through scanning a QR code.


Alongside ONPAR, UNHCR is also working to address other prioritized commitments assumed by the Government of Panama, such as reducing the time of issuance and renewal of work permits; including populations of concern in mental health programmes to address high levels of post-traumatic stress as needed; raising awareness of private enterprises on the obstacles refugees face while searching for employment and livelihoods; providing alternatives to costly micro-credits so as to enable refugees to obtain small loans; and exploring effective and agile alternatives to access higher and vocational education, among others.


Key actors involved

The stakeholders involved in the MIRPS in Panama include the National Office for the Attention of Refugees (ONPAR), the National Migration Service (SNM), UNHCR, UNDP, FAO, various line ministries (such as the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Social Development, Education, Agriculture and Livestock Development, Health, Security, and Labour and Social Development), and NGOs, including the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), HIAS, Pastoral de Movilidad Humana (PMH), Refugee Education Trust (RET) and the Panamanian Red Cross (CRP).


Next steps

  • Development of Panama’s National Operational Plan to guide the national MIRPS application.
  • Organization of a government-private sector roundtable to analyze engagement in local integration, social responsibility and employment opportunities.
  • Creation of an interinstitutional working group at the municipality level to coordinate the inclusion of refugees and asylum-seekers in social programmes and promote local integration at the community level.
  • Implementation of awareness-raising and anti-xenophobic campaigns.
  • Profiling exercise of people of concern to obtain quantitative and qualitative data on forcibly displaced population for evidence-based protection and programming.
  • Strengthen alliances on refugee protection and solutions (e.g. Manpower on job placement; INADEH (vocational training institute); MICROSERFIN on micro credits etc.).


Current challenges

In the spirit of citizen participation, Panama will soon undergo an election period, whereby a new President will be sworn in by mid-2019. While remaining committed to the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers in the country, this transition is likely to have an impact in the pace of implementation of MIRPS projects.


  • Contact person in UNHCR RO Panama

Renee Cuijpers,

Diana Diaz Rodriguez,

Hugues Van Brabandt,  

  • Contact person in UNHCR Regional Bureau for the Americas 

Elisabet Diaz Sanmartin, 

See other MIRPS countries: 


Costa Rica




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Central America and Mexico Panama | Country/situation updates
222 KB

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Uploaded: 24 May, 2018 (2 months ago )

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Published: 24 May, 2018 (7 months ago )
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Central America and Mexico Belize Costa Rica Guatemala Honduras Panama Mexico | CRRF posters
722 KB

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Published: 24 May, 2018 (10 months ago )
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711 KB

Acorde con la larga tradición de cooperación regional para responder a los desafíos de protección, seis Estados de la región - Belice, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, México y Panamá- adoptaron la Declaración de San Pedro Sula el 26 de octubre de 2017, y acordaron trabajar de forma conjunta en el continuo desarrollo e implementación del Marco Integral Regional para la Protección y Soluciones (MIRPS). El MIRPS es una iniciativa pionera en la aplicación del Marco de Respuesta Integral para los Refugiados (CRRF, por sus siglas en inglés) y una contribución concreta de la región en el desarrollo del Pacto Mundial sobre los Refugiados.

Published: 24 May, 2018 (1 year ago )
Uploaded: 24 May, 2018 (1 year ago )

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