Tuesday 31 January 2023

Long lines at San Jose airport at start of high season normal

Lack of immigration officials have arriving and departing travelers wait in long lines; Tourism sector asks for a permanent solution

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31 January 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – Year after year it is the same. The long lines at immigration at the Juan Santamaría airport in San Jose when the high tourism season in Costa Rica arrives was no exception this year. And despite the fact that the main cause is always the same, the authorities have not solved the issue of understaffing.

The arrivals hall at the San Jose airport (SJO). Photo posted November 15, 2021, on Expatriates in Costa Rica Facebook group

Although the airport has 28 posts for the immigration process of entry and 16 of exit, most of the time they are below half of the operation, due to the lack of officials.

Gerardo Mora, president of the ANEP union section for Policía de Migración (Immigration Police), points out that this problem has been repeated every year due to the lack of initiative from the government and legislative bills that have been stalled due to lack of political will.

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“It is a problem that is not from now, that has been dragging on for years, year after year this problem is in the high season at the Juan Santamaría Airport,” said Mora.

He also criticized that personnel from other parts of the country are always relocated in the high season to the country’s main air terminal, leaving other important immigration points unprotected or severely understaffed.

In addition, he indicated that bill 22,643 could provide financial resources for more immigration staff, however, it does not have the support of the Minister of Public Security, Michael Soto.

Hours of waiting are repeated every year at the Juan Santamaría Airport due to a lack of immigration personnel

The union representative said the immigration police at the airport is patching staffing holes.

Ombudswoman Catalina Crespo, who recently paid a visit to the air terminal, urged measures to guarantee optimal operation.

“This situation is alarming on the eve of the entry of thousands of visitors to our country, and the departure of Costa Ricans and foreigners for the high season,” said Crespo.

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The Cámara Nacional de Turismo (Canatur) – National Chamber of Tourism – expressed its concern and asked the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjeria (DGME) – Costa Rica’s immigration service – to take immediate action to solve this problem.

The lines of arriving visitors at the San Jose airport extended to the corridors. Photo posted November 15, 2021, on Expatriates in Costa Rica Facebook group

“The problem is that of the 28 immigration posts to enter the country, only half are working, and out of 15 to leave, only one or two are working. This is a problem for years and an integral and permanent solution is urgently needed, it is not resolved with palliative measures such as moving immigration officers from one place to another at certain times,” said Rubén Acón, president of the Canatur.

Acón was forceful in pointing out that it is necessary to hire more personnel, even with the possibility of outsourcing services, to provide better service to travelers arriving and leaving the country.

“It is urgent to take measures now, we need to be competitive, the image of the country and the survival of the Costa Rican tourism industry are at stake,” added the president of Canatur.

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Even the legislators have tried to find a definitive solution to the problem, for which a group of legislators promotes a reform through project 22,463, to use resources from the tax law on corporations and strengthen the Immigration Police.

Independent legislator Carmen Chan sent on November 16 a letter to the Executive Branch in which she requests to convene the project in extraordinary sessions and find an answer to the problems that travelers experience every year.

“At the gates of the high tourist season, it is essential to have a migration control capable of responding to the high demand for the service, which arises due to the large number of tourists who transit in the international airports of our country,” says the legislator.

For its part, AERIS, the airport manager, the problem is one of the immigration service.

In the past week, posts on social networks detail experiences of arriving travelers, some who have had to withstand lines for up to four hours to enter the country.


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