Video: Lajas Blancas Camp Where Almost 100 Cubans Are Living
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 2 March 2017 – In the next few weeks Panama will deport almost 500 Cubans who remain undocumented in the country, after being stranded by the end of the United States’ wet foot/dry foot policy in January, which had previously allowed Cubans who stepped foot on American soil to remain in the country.
According to reports to 14ymedio by sources from Panama’s National Immigration Service, the deportations could begin when the Service’s director, Javier Carrillo returns; currently he is in Havana in the fourth round of migration talks between the two countries.
“The deportations depend on the agreement between the two nations, but we can confirm that all undocumented migrants who are currently in the country will be returned to Cuba,” said the official source.
“The Memorandum of Understanding for the deportations has been signed but the details have not yet been made known,” he said.
In Panama, 383 Cubans remain in the care of Caritas Panama, 92 in Lajas Blancas and another 24 in the shelter of the National Migration Service. For the migrants who are in the shelter set up by Caritas the news was disconcerting.
“They are very worried they did not expect something like this,” says Victor Luis Berrio, permanent deacon in charge of the Catholic institution.
Last week two Cubans attempted suicide by taking sleeping pills due to the uncertainty of their fate, they said
“At the moment we are making every possible effort to avoid the massive deportation of these Cubans,” he adds.
According to Berrío, his organization has sent a letter to the president of the nation explaining that all the humanitarian work of the Government could be jeopardized if they proceed with the deportation.
According to Deacon Barrios, who follows the message of Pope Francis to shelter refugees, “the authorities’ intention has always been deportation.” He thinks, however, that it will not come to pass, “without a fight.”
“We are going to open our doors so that Cubans in Lajas Blancas can come to Caritas and we will continue to protect these defenseless people,” says the deacon.
“The decision of Caritas is to defend all the migrants that are in its care,” he says.
Last week two Cubans attempted suicide by taking sleeping pills due to the uncertainty of their fate, they said. They were in a Cuban migrant camp in the village of Lajas Blanca, near the western Panama border. Many crossed the Darien Gap jungle to get there.