QCOSTARICA — More than 14,000 migrants who crossed the Darien jungle, which separates Colombia from Panama, were moved to the Nicaraguan border of Peñas Blancas between October 10 and 16, 2023, according to data from Costa Rica’s immigration service, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME).
The move is part of the “humanitarian corridor” plan implemented by the governments of Panama and Costa Rica in an attempt to control the high migratory flow in the border area of both countries, known as Paso Canoas.
After crossing the Darien Gap, migrants are moved in buses from Panama to the Centro de Atención Temporal para Personas Migrantes ubicado (CATEM) – Temporary Migrant Attention Center – in Costa Rica.
In this way, migrants are prevented from staying in Paso Canoas.
At the CATEM, they are provided medical attention, and food, and the bus trip to the Nicaraguan border is coordinated. The border-to-border bus trip comes at a cost of US$40 for each person
Upon arrival at the Nicaraguan border, each migrant must pay US$150 dollars to the Nicaragua immigration office for “safe conduct” to transit the country without problems. However, migrants have complained that some officers pocket the money and do not give them the “salvo conducto” document.
Panama’s Ministry of Public Safety revealed that, by October 21, some 20,889 migrants had been moved to CATEM. Of these, 14,000 have already been officially moved to the Nicaraguan border However, of the remaining 6,889, there is no information from the Panamanian or Costa Rican governments.
The “hell” of Paso Canoas
“The idea of granting this migratory transport has been excellent, more humanitarian, with more protection for the migrants and less impact for our society,” says Juan Manuel Pino, Panamanian Minister of Public Safety.
These measures prevent migrants from being stranded in the Paso Canoas border zone. In recent months, this place has become a “hell” for many migrants who do not have the money to continue their journey to the northern border.
According to press reports, every day, some 500 to 600 people sleep on cardboard or in tents until they can pay for a ticket. There are cases of migrants who have waited up to a month.
According to official data, most migrants crossing the Darien come from Venezuela, Ecuador, Haiti, China, and Colombia.
The number of buses varies according to the demand
Costa Rica and Panama authorities provided a fleet of up to 200 buses to transport migrants to the Nicaraguan border to implement the plan.
The transfer of migrants from the CATEM is not free to all. The fare for those who cannot afford it is paid with public funds and money raised from the international community.
“Authorities are assessing the situation of people who can’t pay with money from international organizations during their stay (in the CATEM),” said Costa Rican Immigration in a press release, emphasizing that migrants taken to the CATEM “cannot go out to carry out any paid activity since their passage through the country is only in transit.”
Nicaragua, the passage of thousands of migrants
Although this Panamanian / Costa Rican humanitarian project is now in its third week of implementation, the Nicaraguan government has not made any statement on the matter.
In the document “Plan of Attention to Migratory Flows,” published on October 19, the Ortega government limited itself to “blaming” international sanctions for the increase in the migration of Nicaraguans to the United States. It did not offer any solution to the problem, nor did it refer to Nicaragua being used as a “trampoline” by migrants from Cuba and Haiti.
Migration from all nationalities to the United States has increased in the last two years. In fiscal year 2021, there were 1.9 million irregular migrants apprehended at the southern U.S. border; in 2022, it rose to 2.7 million, and this year there are 3.2 million.
Nicaragua is one of the countries through which thousands of migrants pass. Data from the Central Bank of Nicaragua, and reported by La Prensa, showed that some 50,800 people who arrived by plane to the country did not leave by that route, suggesting that they were migrants who continued their journey by land.
There is no data on how many foreigners entered Nicaragua through the southern border. with Costa Rica. The Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism (INTUR), which has the statistics on foreign entries, has not published data since 2021, when migration measures for Cubans were relaxed.
Honduras, another transit country, reported on Wednesday that between January 1 and October 22, a total of 416,438 migrants entered their country illegally. This record number doubles the number of foreigners that entered Honduras in 2022 and signals the migratory crisis in the Americas.
Adapted and translated from the article originally published in Spanish in Confidencial