Costa Rica will not admit Cuban migrants who are stranded in Panamá adjacent to the country’s southern border, the foreign minister, Manuel González, said Wednesday.
He said that those migrants have to make their way to the United States other than under a transportation plan Costa Rica has in mind.
The foreign minister made this comments while discussing what he called a pilot project to send 180 Cuban by air to El Salvador Tuesday. The airlift will be from Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia via Avianca.
The plan is to transport the migrants by bus to the northern Mexican border from El Salvador.
González noted that the Cubans are likely to face some resentment as they travel by land because they are the only national group that gets preferential treatment from U.S. immigration authorities. He noted that in the countries to the north, El Salvador, Guatemala and México, there are individuals who have been deported from the United States.
Each of the adults involved in the pilot project will pay $550 to a private travel firm for the trip.
That amount also covers the $29 exit tax from Costa Rica, the $60 visa for El Salvador and the $10 visa for Guatemala, the foreign ministry noted.
Ironically, $1 of the Costa Rican exit tax goes into a fund for victims of human trafficking.
González emphasized that the Cubans here are legal because they have government-issued visas. His ministry also is backing away from the details of the pilot project by saying that none of the governments of the countries involved and none of the international organizations will assume the cost of the trips and that payment is a private transaction.
Those selected for the trip will be those with the longest time in Costa Rica with the capacity to pay, said a ministry announcement.
Based on the capacity of the pilot project aircraft, some 44 flights would be needed to move the 7,800 Cubans already in Costa Rica to El Salvador. And that also would represent a charge of $4.3 million.
González really did not have an answer when asked about those migrants who might be unable to pay the requested fare.
In addition to the visas, the fee is supposed to cover food,
travel insurance, bus fares, lodging along the way and other expenses.
The International Organization for Migration will be the agency that evaluates and picks the travel firms, it said.
González said that after the first group reaches México, representatives of the governments in the region will meet to evaluate the entire project.
If the plan is adopted for the rest of the Cubans, the government envisions flights from Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela as well as the Liberia airport.
Most of the Cubans flew from their island to Ecuador and traveled by land to Costa Rica. They seek to take advantage of the 1966 Cold War era U.S. law that gives them immigration preference.
The Costa Rica situation is similar to the situations elsewhere as Cubans seek better economic conditions in the United States before the U.S. welcome mat is withdrawn due to that country’s rapprochement with Cuba.
The Pew Research Center said it filed a public record request to learn from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that 43,159 Cubans entered the U.S. via ports of entry in fiscal year 2015.