Thousands of Dominicans in Panama face deportation
SD. Thousands of Dominicans who live and work in Panama could find themselves affected by the suspension of the “Panama, Melting Pot of Races” program for the legalization of foreigners.
The program, ‘Crisol de Razas’ in Spanish, began in 2010 and its objective until September 2014 was to legalize the immigration status of immigrants located in Panama who were in an irregular situation, complying with the established legal norms and observing the criteria of security, human rights and the government’s policies.
Marcos (not his real name) is a Dominican who two years and six months ago, immigrated to Panama where he works as a waiter in a restaurant. In the Dominican Republic, he has two children to whom he sends monthly remittances as the result of his work in Panama.
Now, his immigration status is a worry. Although his permanence in the isthmus is still legal, his visa expires in seven months.
In a letter sent to the Diario Libre, Marcos, 35, explains that foreigners who want to normalize their situation must pay the Panamanian government US$1272 for a residence card and US$500 for a work permit. In total, this is US$1772 which would be valid for two years. Once this period is up, they have to contribute an equal amount again in order to obtain the same benefits for 10 years.
“But, what is happening, now this government (that of Juan Carlos Varela) does not want to normalize foreigners and those of us who have obtained two years will have to leave the country when our residence card expires,” says NP with a great deal of worry.
And it is because with the start of the administration of Juan Carlos Varela, the Crisol de Razas program was suspended and they began to change the situation for some foreigners.
“When the new administration entered, they said that they were going to carry out one last immigration fair, in which 1819 Dominicans became legal, some were able to acquire the two-year card, others the ten-year card,” said the consul general of the Dominican Republic in Panama, Domingo Ramirez.
In addition, the situation of immigrant entry was changed for some countries. In the case of the Dominican Republic, one month after initiating his administration, Varela decreed that all Dominican citizens that would like to enter Panama will have to have the previous authorization of the Ministry of Public Safety of Panama.
The measure is contained in Decree Num. 464 of the Ministry of Public Safety and repeals Executive Decree Num. 167 of 20 March 2014, which excluded the Dominican Republic and Haiti from among the countries whose citizens would need prior authorization from the Ministry, only requiring them to obtain the visa issued by the consular authorities.
A thorny problem
The ambassador of the Dominican Republic in Panama, Cesar Medina, explained that when he arrived in the country at the end of last December he encountered this situation.
“I encountered a rather thorny problem because President Juan Carlos Barela had decreed regulations for the immigrants established in that Central American country. With reference to the Dominicans, I touched upon the issue with President Varela on 8 January when I presented my Credentials in the Palace of Las Garzas, and in a very splendid matter he answered that this particular issue should be handled in diplomatic terms between the two governments, as in effect it should be,” responded Medina.
The diplomat announced that at the Summit of the Americas, which will be held on the 10th and 11th of next April, they will attempt to agree upon a bilateral meeting between the two presidents and it is possible that this issue will be on the agenda.
“But as you will understand, for this occasion the host country President will have thousands of things to do to attend to the more than 30 Chiefs of State and of Government that will be present, among them the President of the United States, Barack Obama; however, you can be sure that as the representative of the Dominican State I will do everything possible, within the limits of diplomacy and respecting the sovereignty of the Panamanian State, in order to normalize the situation of thousands of Dominicans that might see their rhythm of life affected in a country that has accepted them with hospitality, affection and respect,” he added to his answer.
In the last five years (2009 until 2013), some 76,486 travelers from the Dominican Republic entered Panama.
Dominican citizens have 30 days from the time they step onto Panamanian territory to be able to change their immigration status or extend their time as a tourist in any of the immigration offices under the threat of a fine, which is different from the rest of the countries which have a timeframe of up to six months in order to carry out such changes from tourism to any other type of visa.
A document obtained by Diario Libre stresses within the recommendations for this case are: the creation pf a regulatory framework similar to that of the friendly countries for the Central Americans or include them as friendly countries, taking into account that Panama has assumed the commitment to actively join the process of Central American integration; improve the systems of vigilance and denounce human trafficking; and begin a new revision and adoption of international standards with relation to the conditions under which refugees live in Panama.
If they do not accept these recommendations Panama runs the risk of an increase in the cases of deportations of Central Americans.
There is a risk of later changes to immigration laws which are less flexible because they did not work on an alternate solution in time, such as the following: Implementation of visas for Central American countries; a reduction the time of staying as a tourist in Panama, such as the current case of the Dominican Republic and in the possible future they could do it with Nicaragua and the rest of the Central American countries; the danger of increasing human trafficking; and the increase in the refugee population.
March 25, 2015
Category: DR News |