Costa Rica frets as Panama allows migrants to cross border
SAN JOSÉ — Costa Rica expressed “concern” Wednesday about neighboring Panama’s decision to allow migrants to cross their common border, as it struggles with thousands of migrants blocked on its own territory.
“We are concerned that the migratory flow is increasing and now we have an additional concern with the official declaration by the Panamanian government that announced free passage for migrants on its territory,” said Carmen Muñoz, deputy minister for government and police.
Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said Tuesday that his country would waive immigration restrictions for around 800 migrants who have recently crossed from Colombia and were in the Darien jungle on the border.
Many of the migrants are from Haiti and Africa, with some also from Cuba and Asian countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Varela said that, as a “humanitarian” gesture, they would be permitted to continue their journey north toward their target destination of the United States, meaning they would be let through into Costa Rica.
But Costa Rica is currently hosting around 2,500 migrants near its northern border with Nicaragua, which in November boosted security along the frontier to prevent undocumented migrants crossing.
Getting through Nicaragua is proving extremely difficult for the migrants, some of whom have paid upwards of $1,000 to people smugglers to attempt that leg of their trek.
Costa Rican lawmakers are pondering a number of measures to help cope with the influx. One option being considered is to increase Costa Rica’s tourist tax by five percent.
Colombia also moving migrants on
Colombia also announced Wednesday that it would give exit permits to more than 900 Haitians in the country illegally. The passes give the migrants between three and 10 days to leave the country or face deportation.
Colombian migration authorities also said they had given more than 1,500 exit passes to Cubans, most of whom had already left the country.
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