QCOSTARICA – Panama said it would do everything in its power to help the thousands of stranded Cuban migrants in the country, looking to reach the United States and regrets the situation caused Costa Rica’s withdrawl from the Central American Integration System (SICA).
Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel De Saint Malo de Alvarado, told the EFE news agency that “we are a country of transit, tolerant and open, therefore continue to give the best possible humane treatment to the migration, that for different reasons, that go through our country”.
De Saint Malo said the immigration service informs of 775 Cubans entering the country this week and “impossible to know how many more are still in the jungle.”
The closing of the Nicaraguan border several weeks ago has left almost 6,000 Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica and estimated 2,000 at the border between Panama and Costa Rica, “and more in Puerto Obaldia (Panama border with Colombia),” said Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister, Manuel Gonzalez.
Up to December 1, Cubans were able to travel to Ecuador without a visa, from where they would make their way by land through Colombia and Central America (Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala), to Mexico, then cross into the United States.
De Saint Malo said that Panama will continue to promote constructive dialogue with the region “to solve this humanitarian crisis”.
On Friday, the director of immigration, Kattia Rodríguez, announced that Costa Rica will not give transit visas to new Cuban immigrants, because the national capacity to address immigrants reached the limit.
The director assured that the 5,989 Cubans already granted a visa will not be affected and the country would only issue a visa to the 2,503 Cubans currently at the Panama border.
President Luis Guillermo Solis said on Friday that any Cuban migrant caught entering the country illegally would be immediately deported to Cuba.