QCOSTARICA — Costa Rica’s migration crisis got out of hand is the word from the government, as between 3,000 and 4,000 migrants enter the country every day, passing through, collapsing services to such an extent that it declared a state of emergency.
“This situation warrants a declaration of national emergency (…) I have instructed the security ministry to take a firm stance with anyone who takes Costa Rica’s kindness for weakness,” Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves said at a media briefing, referring to recent riots by migrants at the southern border with Panama.
“We are a generous people and do not confuse this with weakness. If someone comes here they have to respect the laws and the police,” added President Chaves.
The President reaffirmed the Government’s message for migrants “If someone crossed the Darién Gap, arrived in Costa Rica and behaved badly, disrespecting our authorities, causing riots, the message is: they are returned to their country of origin because we are not going to tolerate it here” and added “those who are thinking coming to Costa Rica should begin to meditate.”
There are 25 people (migrants) who misbehaved the previous week and are detained. I have already ordered Immigration to begin the deportation process of those who rioted to Venezuela or their country of origin. They disrespected the authorities and are going back to their country because we are not going to allow it here,” said Chaves.
For its part, the National Emergency Commission (CNE) will meet to make the national emergency declaration official, which President Chaves will sign in order to enable and expedite both funds and resources to address the situation.
The Executive President of the CNE, Alejandro Picado, explained that the declaration of emergency will allow for the provision of resources and strengthen the operational capacity of the institutions to ensure the security of people living on the borders and guarantee migrants safe transit.
How many migrants are in Costa Rica?
Since January, more than 386,000 migrants have passed through the border from Panama into Costa Rica.
Officials say that so far in September, over 60,000 people have crossed into Costa Rica at Paso Canoas, the border town shared with Panama that is home to less than 20,000 people.
“We all know that throughout the Americas there is a migration crisis,” Chaves said.
Chaves is set to visit Panama in October to discuss the issue.
Apart from Central America, a rising number of people are also making their way from Venezuela, Haiti and Cuba, as well as from Africa and Asia, in a bid to flee poverty, violence and political crises in their home countries.
Mexico has tightened controls.
On Monday, Germany’s human rights commissioner raised concern about the situation in Central America following a trip to the region. “We are dealing with a region in a state of crisis,” Luise Amtsberg said after concluding her trip in Costa Rica.
She met with human rights activists from Nicaragua and El Salvador, where President Nayib is clamping down on criminal youth gangs.
“Costa Rica is reaching its breaking point — we are very clearly at a tipping point here,” Amtsberg told DW.com. “There is still space and protection, but recently there has also been a debate about a more restrictive asylum policy.”