WASHINGTON — Starting next month, Costa Rica, in partnership with the United States, will begin to tackle an ongoing problem – the spiraling U.S.-bound migration through the small Central American country.
Shortly after meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís said his country, under the UN mandate, will start receiving groups of 200 asylum-seekers at a time from Central America’s Northern Triangle region. That includes El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, three nations just north of Costa Rica in Central America.
They will be allowed to stay in Costa Rica for up to six months, Solis said, before moving on to the U.S. or some other country willing to accommodate them.
“We think that in this fashion, we can show our solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Northern Triangle, and at the same time, to be consistent with the Costa Rican policy of human rights respect,” Solís said at the Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank. “This is clearly something that will continue to happen as long as we have the violence going (in the region).”
Since last October, thousands of migrants have poured over the southern border of Costa Rica and heading north in hopes of reaching the U.S. Their numbers include 22,000 Cuban nationals, Solis said.
Many of the migrants are fleeing drug and gang violence in impoverished regions of Central America. In Costa Rica, the asylum seekers posed security challenges as well as practical challenges as to how to accommodate their growing numbers.
With Costa Rica’s northern neighbor Nicaragua shutting its border, many migrants were stranded in Costa Rica. And Costa Rican authorities are scrambling to come up with humanitarian solutions.
According to President Solís, Costa Rica receives about 100 to 150 migrants per day, with 30 to 50 leaving the country daily.
Costa Rica saw 2,500 Cubans go through its territory in 2013; the number increased to 5,200 in 2014, and to 22,000 in 2015, Roman Macaya, the Costa Rican ambassador to the U.S., said in May.
Macaya, speaking last spring at the Institute of World Politics, said growth in migration from Cuba marked a significant trend, particularly for a small land like Costa Rica, with a population of 4.8 million people