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First group of Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica arrive in Miami amidst officials’ concerns

Cuban migrants arrive after traveling en route from Costa Rica to El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, before heading to the U.S., at General Lucio Blanco International airport in Reynosa, in Tamaulipas state, Mexico, Jan. 17, 2016. (REUTERS OMX)

Cuban migrants arrive after traveling en route from Costa Rica to El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, before heading to the U.S., at General Lucio Blanco International airport in Reynosa, in Tamaulipas state, Mexico, Jan. 17, 2016. (REUTERS OMX)

January 19th, 2016 (ICR News) The first of several thousand Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica have crossed into the United States under a plan agreed to among Central American leaders.

The migrants arrived in Miami Sunday, after 180 of them first crossed the U.S. border late last week at Laredo, Texas.

The deal allows the migrants to be flown from Costa Rica to El Salvador, before being taken to the U.S. border by bus.

The pilot effort will be evaluated by the Central American governments on Wednesday before it is expanded to allow all the Cubans to leave Costa Rica for the U.S.

Officials estimate it will take 28 flights to get the all of the Cubans from Costa Rica to El Salvador.

The Cubans arrived in Miami distressed over their ordeal, but also grateful to Costa Rica for its “incredible humanitarian consciousness” after Nicaragua closed its border to them, temporarily halting their trek to the United States.

Odalanier Diaz, 27, was reunited for the first time in four years with his father Angel after traveling for five days in buses from El Salvador and almost three months of uncertainty since he fled Cuba for Ecuador last October.

“My son is out of danger. He’s now in the country of freedom,” Angel told EFE on Monday, while expressing special concern for the women and children who are still stuck in Costa Rica.

“I’m grateful … to Costa Rica,” Odalanier told EFE, saying that the jungle crossing from Colombia and Panama was the “most terrifying.”

Diaz is one of some 8,000 Cubans who began piling up on Nov. 15 in Costa Rica when Nicaragua denied them entry claiming they posed a risk to Managua’s security and sovereignty.

He arrived Sunday night on a bus chartered by South Florida’s America Teve television channel that departed on Saturday from the border with Mexico carrying about 50 Cubans, dropping some of them off along the way but ultimately bringing about 20 to Miami.

In recent years, the majority of undocumented Cuban migrants have arrived in the United States via the Mexican border, almost 31,000 of them during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015.

Many of them begin their journey by flying to Ecuador, the only country in the region they can enter without a visa, although that benefit was ended in December.

 

MIAMI OFFICIALS CONCERNED

Miami officials earlier this month expressed their concern over the imminent arrival of the migrants, saying that local governments in the Miami area lack funds to provide assistance and welfare programs to this new wave of Cuban migrants.

“This will be another Mariel boatlift,” Regalado told the Miami’s El Nuevo Herald earlier this month, referring to the mass emigration of more than 120,000 Cubans on some 2,000 boats from their island nation to Florida in 1980, adding that local government does not have the financial resources to establish shelters for the thousands of Cubans headed their way.

And this time is different, Regalado stressed, because unlike the 1980 crisis when the US federal government took the lead in assisting the flood of immigrants, the federal government has so far not indicated that it has any intention of assisting the city and local governments with what some are now calling the second Cuban exodus.

“Many want to settle here [in the Miami area] for ease of language, access to work and because they have family [here],” another local official, Luis Gonzalez told the Herald. “But this is a matter in which the federal government should necessarily be involved and we have to wait and see what resources will be available to address this issue.”

 

Report by ICR News.  VOA and EFE contributed to this report.

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