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

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QCOSTARICA – A group of around 10,000 migrants from Haiti, Africa, Asia and Cuba from the overcrowded small town of Necoclí, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, on the border with Panama, seeking to continue to do what they hope will be a trip to 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 town of around 20,000, best known for its beaches, coconuts and bubbling mud volcanoes, has become a bottleneck on the global migrant trail that winds through South America and Central America, then to Mexico, then to the southern border of the United States.

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While waiting to cross the Darien Gap to reach Panamanian soil, they blocked themselves in the Colombian sector and raised alarms in the neighboring country.

This situation could generate problems in Costa Rica, mainly at the border via Paso Canoas.

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

“Since March 2020, due to the pandemic caused by covid-19, Costa Rica has suspended the coordinated process of the flow of migrants that existed between Costa Rica and Panama. The land borders remain closed for the entry of this type of migration ”, indicated the DGME in a press release.

Migrants stranded in Colombia. Photo Necocli Town Hall

Prepare

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.

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

On the Costa Rican side of the Panamanian border. Archives

Beyond that, immigration has ensured that the country is ready to face a migration crisis.

“Since 2015, Costa Rica has witnessed 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 event”, said the DGME.

Panamanian appeal

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Panama’s Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes on Tuesday summoned the region’s foreign ministers to deal with the crisis.

In a press release, they said “the meeting aims to secure a firm commitment to eradicate dangerous and uncontrolled migration routes, respecting the right of all human beings to freedom of movement without endangering their lives or their lives. goods ”.

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

Before this meeting, Mouynes and his Colombian counterpart, Marta Lucía Martínez, will travel on Friday August 6 to the province of Darien, La Estrella from Panama reported this morning.

According to the report, the Panamanian Minister of Security of Panama, Juan Manuel Pino, and Colombian Minister of Defense, Diego Molano, will also participate in the binational meeting on the basis of the need to agree on effective mechanisms for processing. humanitarian and passage controlled by irregular migrants, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama.

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

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

The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry does not comment on the matter.

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

In the past two months (June and July), hundreds of migrants, mostly Haitians and Cubans, who attempted to enter Costa Rica through 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, applies the sanctions of rejection at the borders of our country, applying the sanctions of rejection and summons of those who enter or who have entered the country irregularly, ”said immigration authorities.

Haitian migrants gather before boarding a boat bound for Capurgana near the border with Panama, in Necocli, Colombia, on Wednesday July 28, 2021. Thousands of migrants gathered in Necoli as they are heading north towards Panama en route to the US border. (AP Photo / Ivan Valence)

The problem for Costa Rica is not only on the southern border but in the north, with Nicaragua, where this neighboring country has had zero tolerance to allow migrants to pass through their territory.

In recent years, Nicaragua has used its army to deter migrants from entering their territory illegally, blocking them in Costa Rican territory, living in migrant camps near the northern border.

The problem should get worse

According to a report by the Associated Press (AP), Colombian government defense indicates that at least 33,000 migrants have passed through Panama this year, most of them from Haiti, Cuba, Senegal and Ghana. Others from Somalia, Guinea, Congo and Burkina Faso have also been there. A sharp rebound from last year, when restrictions linked to the pandemic reduced the mobility of residents and migrants.

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

Many are heading first to South America. Migrants are both aided and victimized as they make their way from Darien through Central America and then Mexico.

The PA report says 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, from annual totals of less than 6,000 in the United States. over the past two years.

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