Central American countries meet to resolve new Cuban migration wave

Cuban migrants relax at a temporary shelter in La Cruz, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016.
Cuban migrants relax at a temporary shelter in La Cruz, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. AP Photo

Costa Rica’s foreign minister on Tuesday urged neighboring countries to find “concrete” and “permanent” solutions to the constant flow of Cubans and other migrants traveling through the region in an attempt to reach the United States, the news agency EFE reported.

“We are once again faced with a valuable opportunity to continue the dialogue, take advantage of good practices and experiences, reaffirm our commitments and, as in the meetings that preceded this, demonstrate that we can provide permanent concrete solutions,” Manuel González Sanz told a gathering of representatives from Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the United States.

Absent from the regional meeting: Nicaragua and Cuba.

Facing a new rush of undocumented migrants from Cuba — with hundreds already in Costa Rica or Panama — the Costa Rican government has called an urgent meeting Tuesday with officials from the United States, Central America, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and Ecuador to search for a regional answer to a new chapter of the emerging migration crisis.

“It is urgent that we seek...permanent solutions, not short-term, to address this phenomenon that affects us all,” González said.

Nearly 3,000 Cuban migrants are currently stranded in Panama. This new group follows a recent crisis that eventually totaled more than 9,500 migrants stuck in Costa Rica and neighboring Panama, after Nicaragua closed its borders to Cubans en route to the United States. That crisis was finally resolved with an airlift that ended in mid-March after flying thousands of Cubans from Costa Rica and Panama to El Salvador and Mexico so they could resume their journey north to the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Monday, the foreign minister warned the new wave of undocumented Cuban migrants that Costa Rica would no longer serve as a pass-thru to the United States.

“We are countries of origin, transit and destination of migrants and as responsible states, we are commited to take action to protect the rights of these people,” he said, adding that regional nations must redouble their efforts to prevent migrants from becoming vicitms of organized smuggling networks that operate in the region and put lives at risk.

“The situation is not limited to respecting their rights,” he said. “We must find a solution to the root causes of these migration flows so that our nations are not unjustly affected.”

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