Thousands of migrants continue passing through Costa Rica on their way to the United States, with a rising portion now coming from Asian countries like India and China along with traditional flows from South America.
According to data from the Costa Rican government, 66% of migrants are Venezuelan nationals fleeing economic and political turmoil. Another 12% come from Ecuador, 7% from Haiti, and 5% from China. Smaller percentages hail from India, Colombia, Chile and as far as Afghanistan.
“This influx of transcontinental migrants shows how human trafficking crimes manifest,” warned Security Minister Arnoldo André last week. Vice Minister of Interior Marlen Luna says the migration issue will likely worsen in coming months.
Panama reported over 45,000 migrants crossed the treacherous Darien jungle along the Colombia border last year, shattering previous records. With the phenomenon affecting the entire region, Costa Rica hopes decisive action is taken further south.
Panama recently announced new visa and financial requirements to deter illegal migration. But Costa Rica asserts Colombia holds the key through controls at the Darien entrance. “The only entity that can significantly impact this is Colombia,” emphasized Vice Minister Luna last Tuesday.
Migration authorities note the profile of migrants has changed dramatically in recent years, now comprising more women and children. Before, groups of 200 to 400 men would arrive daily. Now officials register up to 3,000 migrants per day, 40% women and 20% minors.
Vice Minister Luna stated that upon arriving in Costa Rica, many migrants exhibit health issues like fatigue, malnutrition and trauma from assaults endured en route. Shelters and hospitals struggle to cope with the influx.
In responding to the migration crisis, Costa Rica pursues a two-pronged strategy. Internationally, it urges coordinated action and responsibility sharing between nations. At home, it aims to provide humane and orderly processing of migrants, though capacities are overwhelmed.
With Asian migrants now joining the stream northward, Costa Rica grapples with a complex humanitarian situation. As the gateway to the Americas, it balances border security with compassion for desperate migrants pursuing dreams of better lives.