Thursday 30 March 2023

Faced with the migration crisis in Colombia and Panama, Costa Rica warns that the border is closed

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30 March 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – A group of around 10,000 migrants from Haiti, Africa, Asia and Cuba the crowded small city of Necoclí, on Colombia’s Caribbean shore, on the border with Panama, seeking to continue to make what they hope will be a journey toward North America.

Thousands of migrants wait to cross the Colombian-Panamanian border on their way to the United States. Photo La Estrella de Panama

The small city of some 20,000 people, better known for its beaches, coconuts and burbling mud volcanos, has become a bottleneck on the global migrant trail that winds through South and Central America, and on to Mexico and then the U.S. southern border.

While they waited to cross the Darien Gap to reach Panamanian soil, they were stranded in the Colombian sector and activated the alarms in the neighboring country.

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This situation could generate problems in Costa Rica, mainly on the border through Paso Canoas.

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME) – Costa Rica’s immigration service – reconfirmed that land borders are closed for this type of mass migration and reaffirmed that the process that is being followed with Panama is suspended.

“Since March 2020, due to the pandemic caused by covid-19, Costa Rica suspended the coordinated process of the migrant flow that existed between Costa Rica and Panama. Land borders remain closed for the entry of this type of migration,” the DGME said in a statement.

Migrants stranded in Colombia. Photo Necocli Mayor’s Office


In the event that the group manages to cross into Panamanian territory, they could accumulate at the border, generating a possible crisis, since they will not be able to enter Costa Rica.

National authorities such as the omisión Nacional de Emergencias (National Emergency Commission), the DGME, the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública (Ministry of Public Security), and the Ministerio de Salud (Ministry of Health), among others, remain vigilant in the face of the movement of land borders,.

On the Costa Rica side of the Panama border. Archives

Beyond that, immigration assured that the country is prepared to face a migratory crisis.

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“Since 2015, Costa Rica has attended critical situations, and has protocols and guidelines for the care of this population, as an institution we are articulated to be able to intervene in this type of migratory events,” the DGME said.

Panamanian call

On Tuesday, the Foreign Minister of Panama, Erika Mouynes, summoned the ministers of Foreign Affairs of the region to address the crisis.

In a press release, they indicated that “the meeting aims to achieve a robust commitment to eradicate dangerous and uncontrolled migration routes, respecting the right of all human beings to freedom of movement without putting life or property at risk.”

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The meeting would be held on August 11 and according to the Panamanians, the foreign ministers of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica would participate.

Ahead of that meeting, Mouynes and his Colombian counterpart, Marta Lucía Martínez, will be visiting the province of Darien on Friday, August 6, reported this morning Panama’s La Estrella.

The bi-national meeting, according to the report, will also be attended by Panama’s Minister of Security of Panama, Juan Manuel Pino, and Colombia’s Minister of Defense, Diego Molano, based on the need to agree on effective mechanisms for humanitarian treatment and the passage controlled by irregular migrants, indicated the Foreign Ministry of Panama.

According to the figures provided by the Panamanian Ombudsman, there are now just over 2,300 migrants in transit in Panama: 1,300 at the Darien immigration stations, on the border with Colombia, and another 1,072 in Gualaca, on the border with Costa Rica.

Haitian migrants walk past a statue of the Virgin Mary as they board a boat in Necoclí. (Ivan Valencia/AP)

Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry is not commenting on the matter.

Costa Rica’s land borders were opened in early April this year, but immigration authorities reiterate that migratory flows are not being admitted.

In the last two months (June and July), hundreds of migrants, mostly Haitians and Cubans, who tried to enter Costa Rica by way of Paso Canoas have been rejected.

In June, according to DGME data, 779 people from Haiti and 325 from Cuba were rejected, while in July 600 Haitians and 135 Cubans were rejected.

“The Policía Profesional de Migración y Extranjería, in coordination with other police forces at the national level, are applying the sanctions of rejection at the borders of our country, applying the sanctions of rejection and summons of those who are entering or who have entered the country irregularly, ” immigration authorities indicated.

Haitian migrants gather before boarding a boat towards Capurgana near the border with Panama, in Necocli, Colombia, Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Thousands of migrants have been gathering in Necoli as they move north towards Panama on their way to the U.S. border. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)

The problem for Costa Rica is not only on the southern border but up north, with Nicaragua, where that neighboring country has had a zero tolerance for allowing migrants to cross into their territory.

In the past several years, Nicaragua has used its military to deter migrants from entering illegally into their territory, stranding them in Costa Rican territory, living in migrants camps near the northern border.

The problem expected to worsen

According to a report by the Associated Press (AP), Colombia’s government Defense says at least 33,000 migrants so far this year have passed into Panama, most of them originally from Haiti, Cuba, Senegal and Ghana. Others from Somalia, Guinea, Congo and Burkina Faso have passed through as well. A sharp rebound from last year, when pandemic restrictions reduced mobility for locals and migrants alike.

Haitian migrants gather in Necoclí. (Ivan Valencia/AP)

Many head first to South America. Migrants are both aided and preyed upon as they make their way from the Darien through Central America and then Mexico.

The AP report says that the number of Haitians reaching Mexico, the last stop before the U.S. border, appears to have increased significantly this year, 9,327 through June, compared to annual totals of less than 6,000 the past two years.


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