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IOM Migration Activities

Migration Initiatives

Historically, Panama has been a country of destination and transit for migrants but also has become an origin of migrants in a lower scale. Its strategic location and the ambitious projects being implemented by the Government attract a large number of migrants.

In the recent years Panama has been facing an economic growth rate without precedents. The expansion of the Canal, the real estate boom and the investments made by important companies, which have selected this as their central operations hub, have positioned Panama as a very attractive country. The economic growth has become a pull factor for the increased migration inflows.

The Government of Panama has recently approved the new migration law, updating the last one which dated from 1960. The migration subject is one of the top priorities in the agenda.

Panama is an active member of all regional initiatives on migration, particularly the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM) and the Central American Commission of Directors of Migration (OCAM).

The Panama Administrative Centre

In 2006 negotiations were concluded to establish the Administrative Centre for the Americas in the City of Knowledge in Panama City to serve as support for all IOM’s offices administrative functions in various regions.

Established in 2007, the Panama Administrative Centre (PAC) provides financial and administrative support services to Missions in various regions. PAC initially started providing services to IOM offices in the Americas and subsequently expanded geographical and functional coverage.

The current services provided by PAC are detailed in the following table:

Service Unit Description Area
Field Personnel Support Provides support to IOM Missions worldwide in their management of local staff Worldwide
Staff Development and Learning Supports in the organization of sponsored training activities in the region and follows up on various administrative matters Americas
Panama Accounting Services Monitors compliance of financial and accounting internal control mechanisms and provides support to missions Americas
Information Technology Acts as the ITC help desk for missions and provides technical support Americas
Health Insurance and Medical Provides occupational health advice and services to IOM staff Americas and Africa
Health Claims Processing Processes the health claims of local staff Americas and Africa
Staff Security Provides advice, technical support and assistance to missions in the region regarding safety/security matters Americas

Emergency and Post-crisis Migration Management

The Emergency and Post Crisis (EPC) division has established a support capacity in PAC to provide guidance and assistance to field offices throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Given the frequency of natural disasters in the region, EPC is called upon to liaise with the regional OCHA office (OCHA-ROLAC) and with the REDLAC (consortium of agencies to better coordinate activities). Also, EPC remotely provides technical support and, when required, in situ support as well to bolster local response capacity.

From the perspective of preparation and readiness, EPC plans to strengthen capacity through targeted training of personnel to better respond in the initial phases of emergencies. Additionally, EPC participates in the drafting o proposals at the regional level to increase the relevance of IOM interventions with national and local authorities in disaster risk reduction.

The Darien Initiative

The objective of this project is to reduce the vulnerability factors that drive adolescents and youth in the Darien to become involved in illicit activities and fall victim to recruitment by illegal armed groups, and to promote the strengthening of the local government and community organizations.

The project has three components: Education and Coexistence, Income Generation and Community and Institutional Strengthening.

The Education and Coexistence component seeks to strengthen and promote projects and actions that guarantee improved access to, and quality and relevance of formal education. Moreover, it seeks to make vocational education programs more easily accessible to the youth, as well as the processes of social inclusion and comprehensive development for adolescents and youths through informal education programs.

The Income Generation component seeks to contribute to an increase the incomes of youth, women and men, and vulnerable families through job-creation, the strengthening of economically productive agricultural units, family handicrafts and small and micro enterprises (SMEs), facilitating their connection with local and national markets.

The Community and Institutional Strengthening component seeks to support and facilitate the coordination process for different Public Institutions, with the purpose of implementing development actions and comprehensively addressing the needs of the communities in the Darien Region. Likewise, this component seeks to strengthen the local community and government organizations, ensuring development and local integration.

The project is implemented in the Embera-Wounaan Comarca and the Darien Province. The first phase will focus on 15 communities in the comarcal district of Cemaco and in Yaviza. Certain specific activities will be initiated in the Jaque community as well.


  • US Agency for International Development (USAID)

Emergency Assistance Programme for Persons Seeking International Protection in the Borders of Colombia with Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador

IOM is assisting persons who have been displaced form the Colombian conflict and are living in critical conditions in the Darien region of Panama at the border of Colombia. Most of the beneficiaries crossed the border years ago but are still faced with mobility restrictions, critically crowded living spaces and no possibilities to improving their economic status.

The programme began in October 2005 and is now in its sixth phase. It has had a direct impact on over 2,000 persons during each phase of the programme by providing access to safe drinking water, shelter, health, training for self-sustaining activities, transportation to obtain legal documentation, emergency kits, improvement of schools and other activities to improve the critical living conditions. Projects have been implemented in the Darién and Kuna Yala provinces located on the border with Colombia which are also the poorest in Panama. This Project assists persons seeking protection on Panamanian soil as well as receptor communities.


  • US Department of State Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration (PRM)

Regional Programme to Strengthen Capacities to Protect and Assist Vulnerable Migrants in Mesoamerica

This regional program aims to enhance capacities of the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM), its Member States’ and civil society partners in Mesoamerica to protect and assist migrants, especially unaccompanied children, victims of trafficking, and others vulnerable to human rights abuses along the migration route.

The project objectives are:

1. To directly assist most vulnerable migrants with immediate needs, voluntary return, and reintegration.
2. To strengthen the capacities of States and their civil society partners through technical cooperation in the design and implementation of public policies that protect and assist vulnerable migrants.

3. To promote dialogue and cooperation of all stakeholders on the protection and assistance of vulnerable migrants at the national, regional and inter-regional levels.

IOM has taken forward steps towards the elaboration of a diagnosis about the situation of vulnerable migrants in Panama, in order to improve the elaboration of national strategies through institutional strengthening, creation of national coordination groups, research process monitoring, and the follow up of Public Policies that promote respect of human rights of vulnerable migrants in Panama.

Also, through a direct assistance fund, the project will improve the conditions of migrants, specially, those vulnerable migrants with specific needs of protection and assistance.


  • US Department of State Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration (PRM)

Main Projects

  • The Darien Initiative
  • Emergency assistance program for persons seeking international protection in the borders of Colombia with Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador
  • Regional Programme to Strengthen Capacities to Protect and Assist Vulnerable Migrants in Mesoamerica

Last updated:
Main text: 28 February 2011
Facts and figures: August 2014

CapitalPanama City
Population (2015)3.9 million
Area75,517 km sq
LanguagesSpanish, English
CurrencyBalboa (PAB)
GDP per Capita PPP (2014)USD 20,583
HDI Rank (2014)60 of 188
Remittances (2014 estimate)USD 760 million
Net Migration Rate (2015-2020)1.5 migrants/1,000 population
Immigrants (2015)4.7%
Women as a Percentage of Immigrants (2015)48.7%
Population under 15 (2015)27.2%
Adult HIV Prevalence (2014)0.60%

Panama Administrative Centre
Calle Vicente Bonilla, Edificio 110
Ciudad del Saber, Clayton
República de Panamá

Tel: + 507.305 33 50
Fax: + 507.305 33 51
Email: iompanama@iom.int