Panama charges 12 Haitian migrants for protest

PANAMA CITY – A judge in Panama ordered 12 Haitian migrants held for trial Thursday on charges related to an Aug. 1 protest in which rocks were thrown at Panamanian border service officers and tents holding supplies were burned.

The migrants face charges of injuring officers, theft and arson. Migrants are demanding they be allowed to continue their journey toward the U.S. border, and have protested conditions at the remote camps where they have been stuck due to travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Panama said last week it has proposed giving some Haitian migrants flights back to their homeland.

The camps in Panama’s southern Darien province also house some Cuban and African migrants, but about 80% of the 2,000 migrants there are from Haiti.

Many migrants hike up through the jungles of Darien from South America, hoping to travel through Central American and Mexico. Many Haitians were already in South America after taking refuge there following Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. Economic downturns have motivated them to try to reach the United States.

But some Central American countries have imposed border restrictions to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

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