Migrant brawl at reception center in Panama's Darien region destroys shelter

PANAMA CITY (AP) — A disturbance among migrants and eventually with Panamanian border police resulted in the destruction of various vehicles and at least 10 modules of a migrant camp in the country’s Darien region, authorities said Saturday.

At least 44 migrants were arrested in the aftermath at a temporary migrant reception center in San Vicente, where migrants emerging from the treacherous Darien jungle that covers the Colombia-Panama border register with Panamanian authorities.

More than 500,000 migrants crossed the Darien last year as they migrated north toward the United States, more than doubling the previous year’s record.

Friday night’s melee began as a fight between two women over a tent and devolved from there, ultimately involving some 250 migrants, Panama’s Security Ministry said in a statement. Authorities did not report any injuries.

“These violent acts carried the consequence of serious impacts on this shelter,” the statement said.

From San Vicente migrants board buses that carry them across Panama to the border with Costa Rica.

The flow of some 2,000 migrants daily through the Darien was cut off earlier this week after police in Panama arrested some of the boat captains who ferry migrants to the point where they begin hiking.

Colombian prosecutors said the captains worked for tourism companies that were a front for transporting migrants at exorbitant prices.