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Panama PTY detains 100's of passengers daily! I was one of them this week

Panama PTY detains 100's of passengers daily! I was one of them this week

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Old Mar 2, 19, 6:35 am
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Exclamation Panama PTY detains 100's of passengers daily! I was one of them this week

I have just been released from a harrowing and extremely unpleasant 30 hours detention at panama PTY airport for no valid reason!
No food, water, phone call, information or english speakers meant I just had to sit in a windowless empty room for 30 hours not knowing what I had done, or if I would ever be released.
Eventually they led me up to a gate and put me on a flight back to my origin, with no explaination given.

As a british citizen i usually travel freely without visa to most countries and when i checked my flight to Trinidad via PTY Panama I wasn't concerned about needing a visa. However when I landed there were officers checking people off the plane and I got grabbed along with a few others (who I have not seen before or since.)
I was led to a room with a couple of guys wearing US immigration tags and who seemed to be checking people with an intention of heading north to the US.
I have no interest or reason to go to the US and dont need a visa for that anyway, so have no idea why I was hauled in. They wanted to know the reason for my travel and confiscated my phone & laptop, then said I had to wait for 'enquiries'
This turned into 30 hours of extreme worry and inhuman treatment without any legal oversight or care for human rights (no food, water, communications, or access to consular advice)
I post this thread as a warning and am also reporting to UK foreign office, to warn all travellers not to connect via PTY - unless you dont mind facing the same treatment that happened to me.
I am a white, middle aged, married businessman, smartly dressed, no criminal or other history that would explain the situation I was put into. (aside from a speeding ticket in the US several years ago) Now I am wondering is the US controlling Panama and so forcing them to filter every single passenger according to US whim of who is 'acceptable' to enter south America region. It seems this is actually happening!
While I was detained there were literally over 100 people in the same situation as me, mainly from S America regional countries, but also chinese and middle eastern origin nationals. No one knew why they were detained and the staff made absolutely no effort to process us quickly.
They simply left us to wait for as long as they legally could (i found out later that they immigration has 24 hours to make a decision) before finally bothering to call the airline to send people home.
warning to all - avoid PANAMA at any cost. its an unsafe airport to pass through and there should be a warning to all travellers before booking tickets
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Old Mar 2, 19, 6:38 am
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That really sucks. So sorry you had to go through that. Thanks for the warning.

Where did you fly in from? Is that where they sent you back to?
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Old Mar 2, 19, 6:49 am
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Originally Posted by bitterproffit View Post
That really sucks. So sorry you had to go through that. Thanks for the warning.

Where did you fly in from? Is that where they sent you back to?
Arrived from BOG bogota - yes they sent me back the same way.
If they didnt want me to pass thru panama (i was just connecting) why couldnt they have put me on the NEXT flight out (which was just 3 hours after I arrived)
instead to keep me 30 hours is incredibly unfair.
I tried to tell them I would be happy to buy a new ticket on the first flight out, but they simply stonewalled any requests i made.
Whatever system PTY is running, it seems to be US controlled and is designed to stop the flow of people towards US. I guess they made some secret deal for this purpose and the panama authorities are waiting for orders from the US before releasing anyone.
I still have no idea why I was suspected of anything but can only warn all to avoid PTY until this travesty is fixed and Tocumen airport guarantees the human rights and fast processing of any immigration detainees. ITS LIKE GUANTANAMO BAY
I am just one voice but this is happening every day to hundreds of people! (mostly spanish speaking, so we dont hear about it)
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Old Mar 12, 19, 9:03 am
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Hold on. There's something odd here and extremely confusing.

The US has no type of treaty with Panama and there are no border or customs agents working in PTY. (I fly through PTY weekly and have a lot of pilot friends at Copa). This doesn't add up at all, the US wouldn't care at all for someone going to Trinidad or South America at all.

Second, the 30 hours holed up, in an airport, with nothing happening? I mean, Panamanian's are straight up dicks with bad attitude, but this just doesn't make sense. PTY is a large hub and people are proud of it. I've never seen a Panamenian customs agent not welcoming someone into their country.

I'm not doubting some of this might have happened, but this seems extremely exaggerated and if not, made up completely.

Note: I'm not from Panama, and not affiliated with Copa. I could give a rats ... about what they do, but this sounds WAY too fictitious.
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Old Mar 12, 19, 5:00 pm
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I go through PTY three or four times a year . I have never seem the immigration people waiting at the gate for any flight.

Could this be a Bogota problem ? Substance realted?
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Old Mar 12, 19, 5:03 pm
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You have to go through immigration if just connecting in PTY?
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Old Mar 13, 19, 1:24 am
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It sounds weird that at Tocumen airport there are guards waiting at the boarding gates for connecting flights, but it can happen as in any other country for security reasons if there is an alert, I am very sorry for what you had to go through. What is not acceptable is that they do not tell you the reasons why "you were inadmissible", if they confused you with another person, or what were the mistakes you made, in order to correct it in the future. Migration got to stamp your passport?
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Old Mar 13, 19, 8:39 am
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Originally Posted by malagajohn View Post
I have never seem the immigration people waiting at the gate for any flight.
I have 2 experiences of this in PTY, with plainclothes immigration agents asking people for passports/ID halfway up, or just outside, the jetbridge. The first time it was on a flight ~3 years ago, and once I showed the guy my Irish passport, he didn't even open it (to the picture page) and made some (nice) comment about Ireland. I was in J, and at the front of this check, and didn't stop to see if they picked up anyone

The second time was when I was at a gate, I think going to MVD about 1.5 years ago, similar looking guys were asking for passports from passengers getting off the jetbridge of our gate. I am unsure where the flight was coming from (and it might not have been MVD)

I believe that all the guys are wearing visible lanyards & badges - I think that one was wearing some wind breaker / jacket that might be seen on plain clothes officers from other countries, however there was nothing indicating a specific country. I didn't stop to look at their ID, but I presume that badges are similar enough (from a very quick glance) for law enforcement around the world

I do not remember what flight I was getting off above, it was too long ago. I didn't think too much of it either time as would be standard enough imo

And this happens at many airports around the world. My last experience of it was a few weeks ago in YYZ after landing from LHR. Quick look at my passport and asked me what I was doing in Toronto. Handed me back my passport after I answered. The same 2 guys were at another gate when I was at a gate next morning, presumably about to do the same thing
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Old Mar 13, 19, 10:20 am
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Originally Posted by Redwood839 View Post
Hold on. There's something odd here and extremely confusing.

The US has no type of treaty with Panama and there are no border or customs agents working in PTY. (I fly through PTY weekly and have a lot of pilot friends at Copa). This doesn't add up at all, the US wouldn't care at all for someone going to Trinidad or South America at all.

Second, the 30 hours holed up, in an airport, with nothing happening? I mean, Panamanian's are straight up dicks with bad attitude, but this just doesn't make sense. PTY is a large hub and people are proud of it. I've never seen a Panamenian customs agent not welcoming someone into their country.

I'm not doubting some of this might have happened, but this seems extremely exaggerated and if not, made up completely.

Note: I'm not from Panama, and not affiliated with Copa. I could give a rats ... about what they do, but this sounds WAY too fictitious.
I agree something does not sound right here. For a start, British nationals do not need a visa to go to Panama.....unless I am wrong? So as a British national why would they send you back to BOG? Maybe that is the rule? And wouldn't they allow you to contact the British embassy/consulate in Panama for assistance?

Seems all very odd.
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Old Mar 14, 19, 9:04 am
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Originally Posted by SgtRyan View Post
I agree something does not sound right here. For a start, British nationals do not need a visa to go to Panama.....unless I am wrong? So as a British national why would they send you back to BOG? Maybe that is the rule? And wouldn't they allow you to contact the British embassy/consulate in Panama for assistance?

Seems all very odd.
Correct, no visa for British Nationals into Panama. No immigration on connection either, if you're boarding an international flight then private security will check you before you enter the gate (it's at the gate entrance). That's what strikes me the most and why I don't believe any of this. Not allowing to contact an embassy or consulate in a modern country with good ties with pretty much everyone? Doubt they would want to piss off them british.

This sounds to me more and more like the passenger was detained and not allowed into Panama because of something he did or was carrying......

Note: Saying that no one hears about this because everyone there spoke spanish.. Right, because it's not a spanish speaking country, in a spanish speaking region, with only so many spanish news outlets with many international outlets covering the region.
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Old Mar 14, 19, 9:14 am
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I will bet that there is more to this story.

There is zero news on this (except the identical story repeated on TA).
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Old Mar 14, 19, 10:40 am
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I agree. There is something missing here. It doesn't ring true as presented.
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Old Mar 14, 19, 10:47 am
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And 30 hours with no food or water? How did you go to the bathroom? I couldn’t hold it for 3 hours, much less 30. Surely there was water in the bathroom? It all sounds a bit 🐟
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Old Mar 15, 19, 6:53 am
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I'm afraid OP will be one a two time poster and made a run for it.
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Old Mar 15, 19, 1:55 pm
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For anyone that doesn't know, PTY does not force all arriving passengers into immigration, they freely enter the terminal and can board departing flights with no additional scrutiny (generally). I have encountered on a few occasions (maybe 3 out of 80 arrivals) Panamanian agents of some sort, not in uniforms, checking passports on arriving flights from latin america. They give mine a very quick glance, I interpret that they are looking for a specific individual. I have witnessed this on other arriving flights as well, and have seen these agents escorting folks somewhere. I have seen Panamanian media reports about criminals detained at PTY. I do not doubt that PTY authorities work in international law enforcement circles, including the US, to nab criminals, especially narcotraffickers. I can't imagine that there are "hundreds" of these cases every day; I wouldn't doubt tens though.

I would like to see OPs add more clarity to his experience. For one, he describes an empty room, yet mentions hundreds of other detainees. He writes about no english speakers, yet describes US immigration agents, who definitely would have spoken English.

Panama has a very strange and strained history with the US; I doubt they allow US hegemony by allowing foreign agents to be stationed at PTY to interrogate transiting travelers. While Panamanian agents can be inflexible and gruff, I have trouble believing they randomly and without cause detain totally innocent travelers and return them to their origin, only after the maximum detention period, apparently just for their amusement. The best case scenario here is a mistaken identity. On the other hand, as soon as I write that, sure, I can see an error or misinterpretation leading to something like this.
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