Cuban migrants – The exodus though Central America continues
CUBA – APRIL 10, 2016 4:57 PM
Cuban migrants: The exodus though Central America continues
Some 2,000 Cubans are again stranded on the Costa Rica-Panama border
More than 700 others are at a landing spot where they arrive by sea from
An emergency regional meeting has been called to find a solution to the
emerging migration crisis
BY JOSÉ MELÉNDEZ
Special to el Nuevo Herald
SAN JOSÈ, COSTA RICA
The ashes from the recent Cuban migration crisis are still smoldering,
and another mess is underway.
Less than a month after Costa Rica and Panama thought they had put an
end to a crisis that exploded in 2015 and left more than 9,500 Cubans
stranded in both countries until this March, the seeds of a new
migration storm have sprouted and are prospering along the porous and
fragile Costa Rica-Panama border.
Unlike the previous crunch, however, the migrants now are not only
Cubans arriving from Ecuador via Colombia but also undocumented African
and Asian migrants coming from Brazil and seeking to enter the United
States. But Cubans make up the largest number of migrants in transit.
THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF CUBANS LIVING IN ECUADOR WHO WANT TO MOVE ON TO
THE UNITED STATES
Carmen Muñoz, Costa Rica’s deputy government minister
“There are thousands of Cubans living in Ecuador who want to move on to
the United States,” Carmen Muñoz, Costa Rica’s deputy government
minister, said in an interview with el Nuevo Herald. “We must not allow
the Cubans to fall into the hands of smuggling gangs or networks,” she said.
Muñoz noted that human smugglers known as coyotes continue to take money
from undocumented migrants to guide them past land and maritime borders
from Ecuador to the Mexican border with the United States.
“The Cubans are still moving through the continent. All our countries
have very porous borders that attract smugglers of souls and other
illegal items. Of course, where any type of merchandise can slip
through, people also can slip through,” Muñoz added.
According to a report by Panama’s Migration Service with updated data
through April 6, at least 2,723 Cuban migrants have been detained in
In Paso Canoas, the main border crossing with Costa Rica, at least 1,987
Cubans are stranded there, including: 53 girls, 48 boys, 714 women and
1,172 men. And in Puerto Obaldia, the point where Cuban migrants from
the island arrive by sea from Colombia, there are 736, including: 30
boys, 27 girls, 419 men and 260 women.
The report said the number of migrants increased significantly over the
past three years: from 1,154 in 2012 to 21,023 in 2015. The total from
2012 to March 2016 is 35,905.
THE NUMBER OF CUBAN MIGRANTS CROSSING THROUGH PANAMA HAS INCREASED FROM
1,154 IN 2012 TO 35,905 THROUGH MARCH 2016
The government of Panama “is providing shelter and food for the
islanders,” the report states, “the other needs they cover themselves
with their own resources.”
Facing a new rush of undocumented migrants from Cuba, Asia and Africa —
with some of them already in Costa Rica or Panama — the Costa Rican
government has called an urgent meeting Tuesday with officials from the
United States, Central America, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and Ecuador to
search for a regional answer to a new chapter of the Cuban migrant
crisis that erupted in November.
“We want to insist on our previous position: the Cuban migration in
particular, and the migrations from outside the continent in general,
must be urgently addressed along the entire region and not just specific
points like Brazil and Venezuela, but also transit points like Central
America and Mexico that are used by the migrants on their way to their
final destination in the United States,” said Muñoz.
Costa Rican authorities broke up the local branch of a network that
smuggled Cubans through Ecuador, Colombia and Central America, earning
huge quantities of money, on Nov. 10, 2015, revealing a vast
transnational organization of people smugglers.
That crackdown sparked the Cuban migrant crisis. Without their smuggling
contacts, the Cubans continued arriving by land from Ecuador in November
and December of 2015 and wound up stranded in Panama and Costa Rica. The
problem worsened Nov. 13, when Nicaragua closed its border with Costa
Rica to Cubans.
The Cuban migration issue dates back to 2008, when Ecuador lifted its
requirement that Cubans obtain a visa before traveling there. Several
Cubans were detected making the overland trip from neighboring Colombia
to Mexico, but the flow increased significantly starting in 2012.
Costa Rica detected only about 50 Cubans entering its southern border
with Panama in 2011, but the number rose to 1,600 in 2012, nearly 2,300
in 2013, nearly 5,400 in 2014 and 12,166 in just the first nine months
of 2015, according to official figures.
ABOUT 50 CUBANS ENTERED COSTA RICA THROUGH PANAMA IN 2011, BUT THE
NUMBER HAS MULTIPLIED EVERY YEAR WITH 12,166 ENTERING IN JUST THE FIRST
NINE MONTHS OF 2015
The accumulation of Cubans stranded when Costa Rica cracked down on the
smugglers in November led to the establishment of an airlift to take
them to El Salvador and Mexico between January and March of 2016,
allowing them to resume their journey to United States. Once they reach
U.S. soil, most are allowed to stay under the U.S. government’s
Muñoz noted that even though Ecuador reestablished its visa requirement
for Cubans on Dec. 1 and put on additional requirements, the problems
“Ecuador’s measures slowed the flow somewhat, but did not stop it. They
slow it because there are more controls, but Cubans are still traveling
to Ecuador in order to start their trip to the United States,” she added.
The work of coyotes
Human smugglers have charged Cubans up to $15,000 to slip them from
Ecuador to the United States, according to investigators from Costa Rica.
The networks also have been smuggling undocumented migrants from Syria,
Nepal, Ghana, Somalia, Pakistan and a long list of other African and
Asian countries, who fly to Brazil and move on to Argentina, Peru,
Colombia, Ecuador or other countries from where they can start their
trip north through Central America and Mexico to reach the United States.
One report by Colombian migration authorities in April 2015 noted that
Asians pay from $25,000 to up to $60,000 to be smuggled from their home
countries to South America and then the United States.
Red Dragon, a feared transnational organized crime network with close
links in Central America, charges up to $60,000 per person for Chinese
migrants who fly from Hong Kong to France and Colombia, and then travel
by land to Central America and Mexico.
An alert last year by the Central American Commission on Migration, made
up of the governments of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, El
Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama, noted that the region is a “transit
corridor” for Cubans, Africans and Asians and creates problems for
“confronting irregular migration.”
Source: Cuban migrants: The exodus though Central America continues |
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