Nicaraguan authorities prevented the entry of more than 500 of their own citizens, leaving them stranded on the border with Costa Rica, human rights organizations reported Thursday.
“The conditions of these people are of a humanitarian crisis. The first impression is of agglomeration of people under sun and rain; there is one bathroom for more than 500 people,” denounced Yader Valdivia, from the human rights organization Nicaragua Nunca Más (Never Again), which is based in Costa Rica.
The migrants are mostly people who had fled to Costa Rica for fear of punishment after participating in the 2018 protests against the government of Daniel Ortega, according to several of those people who are stuck at the border.
Stranded on the border since Monday, Nicaraguan migrants tried to force their entry into the country but were repelled by anti-riot forces that remain in the area, according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH).
The agency described as “reprehensible” that the government is denying entry to its own citizens. Nicaraguan officials at the border say the migrants must present evidence of a negative coronavirus test in order to be admitted.
“It is their obligation as a government to test them for COVID-19, and according to the results, guarantee their health and not leave them at the border,” CENIDH argued on its social networks.
The president of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH), Marcos Carmona, visited the border to advocate for migrants but the authorities “have not allowed us to speak,” he told local media.
Carmona denounced that “we see a business,” rather than the enforcement of sanitary measures, because Nicaraguan migrants are being charged $150 for access to a test.
The Nicaraguan government did not comment on the situation on the border.
Thousands of Nicaraguans who had left the country had left the country were attempting to return due to unemployment in Costa Rica and Panama.
The Nicaraguan Ministry of Health issued an epidemiological resolution Wednesday in which it asks travelers to present a negative coronavirus test result as a requirement to enter.
Official figures indicate there are 3,439 positive cases and 108 deaths from coronavirus in Nicaragua, but the non-governmental Citizen Observatory, a network of doctors, reports much higher figures of at least 8,500 cases and 2,397 suspected deaths due to COVID-19.