Updated Wednesday, 5:36 p.m.
Following the discovery of eight drowned migrants in Lake Nicaragua, the Costa Rican government said it would further crack down on illegal immigration and remove migrants camped out at a border crossing with Nicaragua.
Wednesday afternoon, Nicaraguan authorities found two more drowned migrants, raising the total number of dead to 10. It is thought that the migrants were either from Haiti or an African country.
Effective Thursday, Aug. 4, Costa Rica’s Public Security Ministry will increase border patrols along the porous Panamanian border and deport arriving migrants who enter the country illegally or violate the terms of their temporary humanitarian status in Costa Rica, according to a statement from Casa Presidencial Wednesday afternoon.
According to Communications Minister Mauricio Herrera, the majority of the migrants who claim to be from Africa are in fact Haitian.
The government also announced it would take steps to relocate the hundreds gathered at the Nicaraguan border crossing in Peñas Blancas, Guanacaste. The government’s statement called the informal camp there a “danger” to migrants’ wellbeing.
There are three formal camps for migrants in Costa Rica located in Buenos Aires and Río Claro, Puntarenas, and El Jobo, Guanacaste.
The Immigration Administration has issued 3,778 temporary permits to migrants between June 26 and Aug. 3. The permits allow them to travel freely in Costa Rica as long as they check in every 15 days. Between 50 and 100 migrants have been entering Costa Rica daily without permission.
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MANAGUA, Nicaragua — The decomposing bodies of eight undocumented migrants apparently headed to the U.S. have been found in Nicaragua’s vast southern freshwater Lake Nicaragua, a police official told AFP Tuesday.
“They died by drowning. We believe they were Africans going by the color of their skin,” said Mirian Rugma, of the Rivas regional police force.
However, an official dealing with migration issues told AFP in neighboring Costa Rica on condition of anonymity that “the odds are the drowned migrants are Haitians.”
He said the majority of migrants in Costa Rica seeking to cross into Nicaragua were from the Caribbean island state.
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They often try to pass as Africans in hopes of boosting their chances of receiving U.S. asylum.
The bodies recovered in Nicaragua were those of seven men and a pregnant woman. Police said they were presumed to be headed for the United States.
They were found between Sunday and Tuesday floating near the southern shore of Lake Nicaragua, 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the border with Costa Rica.
Rugma, speaking by telephone, said it was thought they had entered the country by boat from a cross-border river that feeds into the lake.
Since November last year, Nicaragua has bolstered security along its southern border with Costa Rica to keep out undocumented migrants.
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As a result, there are about 2,500 migrants staying in tents, schools, charity shelters, church properties and cheap hotels in Costa Rica, looking for ways to cross through to Nicaragua and continue north.
According to the International Organization for Migration, around 10 percent of the migrants are Pakistanis and Afghans aiming to get to the United States after EU countries this year made it much more difficult to get in.
To get past the Nicaragua border, some migrants are turning to people smugglers who are charging them more than $1,000 each.
The commander for Nicaragua’s military in the south of country, Colonel Alberto Larios, told La Prensa newspaper that migrants were looking for blind spots along the border and some were attempting to cross Lake Nicaragua by boat.
See also: Migrants flowing through is likely Costa Rica’s new normal, minister says