Colombia, U.S. to hold conference on migration in 2023

FILE PHOTO: Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. from Colombia are being processed by the U.S. border patrol after crossing the border from Mexico at Yuma, Arizona, U.S., February 18, 2022. REUTERS/Go Nakamura

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia and the United States will hold a conference in the first quarter of next year to look at measures that would guarantee rights for migrants heading north to the U.S. border, officials from the two countries announced on Friday.

Colombia has become a stepping stone for many migrants from Latin America and elsewhere who travel through the dangerous jungle of the Darien Gap that links Colombia with Panama, before continuing up through Central America.

The phenomenon is a problem for the whole region, U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas told journalists in Bogota.

“This is a regional challenge and it therefore requires a regional solution,” Mayorkas said during a joint declaration with Colombian Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva, following a meeting with President Gustavo Petro.

“We have to respect the humanitarian rights of individuals seeking shelter and at the same time we also have to abide by the laws of our respective countries,” Mayorkas added.

The administration of U.S President Joe Biden has struggled to deal with a record number of migrants trying to cross the country’s southern border with Mexico.

In November a U.S federal judge invalidated a border order known as Title 42, implemented in March 2020, that allowed authorities to quickly remove migrants caught crossing the border without letting them apply for asylum.

The effective date of the ruling was delayed until Dec. 21 and – legal challenges not withstanding – the administration is preparing for the possibility of 9,000-14,000 migrants per day if the order is fully lifted.

The objective of next year’s conference is to establish rules that the attending parties can comply with, Leyva said.

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