Police detained 116 migrants from Africa and Asia crossing Costa Rica’s southern border with Panama on Monday, according to a statement from the Public Security Ministry and the Immigration Administration. The immigration stop came after the government announced it would increase its police presence in the Southern Zone because of large numbers of Cuban migrants camped out just across the border in Panama.
The migrants, who did not have authorization to enter Costa Rica, were traveling on foot in groups of roughly 20 to 25 people, according to Public Security spokeswoman Patricia Meléndez. The largest number of migrants were from Ghana but authorities also detained people from Cameroon, Senegal, Nigeria and Mali, among other African countries. One migrant was from Afghanistan.
Immigration officials accepted refugee applications from 60 of the 116 migrants. The remaining 56 were returned to Panama, according to Immigration Administration spokeswoman Seidy Muñoz.
No arrests were made for human smuggling.
The overland route north through Central America to the United States and Canada is well known to migrants from outside the Western Hemisphere. Migrants from Africa and Asia fly to South American countries that do not require visas and then cross illegally into neighboring countries to reach North America.
This is the same path that thousands of Cuban migrants started using in increasing number during the last several years, culminating in a four-month immigration crisis in Costa Rica when a border dispute with Nicaragua left 7,800 migrants stranded here. Most of those migrants have since made it to the U.S.