14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 5 April 2106 — The Costa Rican government has called an emergency meeting of the countries involved in the migratory flow that includes that nation as a transit point to the United States. The meeting of foreign ministers and representatives of the different nations involved will be held in the third week of April, with all of the affected nations from the United States to Ecuador.
As reported by the Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion, the Costa Rican meeting will aim to find solutions to the flow of undocumented immigrants coming mainly from Ecuador and Colombia, mostly Cubans, along with Asians and Africans.
At present, about 2,000 Cubans are stranded in the province of Chiriqui, on the border of Costa Rica and Panama. As reported by Hugo Mendez, governor of the region, 100 Cubans arrive in Paso Canoas every day, on average, coming from the eastern border with Colombia. Colombia is an unavoidable transit country for all Cubans who leave the island for Guyana and Ecuador, countries whose legislation is more flexible in granting tourist visas.
The number of Cuban migrants in Puerto Obaldia and other areas of the isthmus is unknown. So far, the expenses of accommodation and food are being shared between local governments and religious organizations. The difficult conditions in which these migrants live has led to several protests calling for international help in getting them to the United States, their final destination.
“The meeting has raised the hopes of the people here, because people are grasping at straws,” Silvio Enrique Campos, a Cuban stranded in Panama, told 14ymedio. However, he believes that the problem is not exclusive to the islanders, since there are dozens of migrants of other nationalities who also share the fate of the Cubans waiting to continue their journey to the United States. “I think this meeting is just going to serve the fatten the wallets of the coyotes,” Campos said, as he suspects the crisis is more of a business than a expense, and he doesn’t see an early solution.
Meanwhile, Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry denied last week that Cuban citizens are victims of discriminatory treatment by Rafael Correa’s government. An official press release noted that between 2012 and 2016 the country awarded 26,936 non-immigrant (temporary resident) visas, and 16,738 immigrant (permanent resident) visas to Cuban citizens. In addition, during the same period 697 Cubans have been naturalized and are now Ecuadorian citizens.
In a recent statement from the Cuban National Alliance of Ecuador (ANCE) it was announced that, as a result of negotiations with the Ecuadorian government the legalization of all those Cubans who entered the country before December 2015 has begun. The process of accepting applications will run for six months. However, Cuban citizens who entered after that date remain at risk of deportation.
With regard to efforts to achieve an airlift that allows the orderly exit of Cuban migrants from Ecuador to Mexico or the United States, the government made clear that it “does not deny the right of Cubans to emigrate but it cannot take responsibility for any negotiations,” according to comments to this newspaper from Rolando Gallardo, one of the coordinators of ANCE who attended the meeting. According to Gallardo the official response to the creation of a so-called “humanitarian bridge,” is based on the fact that Ecuador has never asked for anything like this for its own citizens who desire to emigrate.
As reported by US immigration authorities, last year 44,159 Cubans arrived at border posts and were automatically welcomed legally into the United States under the “Wet foot/Dry foot” policy. In the first five months of the 2016 fiscal year, some 27,644 Cuban citizens have been beneficiaries of the “Parole Program” after arriving by sea or by land. If the current rate of Cuban arrivals continues, this year the number of applications for political asylum could exceed 60,000, a figure surpassed only by the events of the Mariel Boatlift in 1980.