Government defends its lax treatment of new wave of migrants

The central government defended Sunday night the way the country is handling an influx of mostly African migrants.

That was the message in the weekly televised message that aired Sunday night.

Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, the minister of communications, said that the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería had listed 1,409 foreigners in May who had entered at the Paso Canoas border. He characterized them as being in irregular condition instead of illegal.

He noted that nearly all hope to reach the United States. Although Herrera said that the migrants had not violated any laws, they appeared to have entered the country illegally. Herrera said that no country has the capacity to close its borders completely to the phenomenon of migrant.

They are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity, said Herrera.

Several migrants were featured on the video. Two seemed to be speaking Brazilian Portuguese and two appeared to be fluent in Spanish. One seemed to speak a dialect of French.

Herrera said that some migrants in the south were being housed in the fairgrounds Paso Canoas. The Cruz Roja is providing health services while immigration officials are taking fingerprints and photos. Many migrants have been issued an immigration document that gives them the freedom of the country. Others have been put in a detention center.

Others have been hospitalized or treated at the clinic in Buenos Aires de Puntarenas. A special facility has been set up for about 400 pregnant women and children.

A.M. Costa Rica reported May 26 that about 40 Africans passed through Tortuguero and Barra del Colorado in northeast Costa Rica by boat and then walked into Nicaragua on foot.

Nicaragua has closed its border to illegal migrants, but some of the new wave of migrants are believed to have entered that country anyway at the Peñas Blancas border crossing.

Herrera said that the government would be opening up two new migrant centers near the northern border this week. They would be in La Cruz and Los Chiles, he said.

The United States has invested millions of dollars in the law enforcement infrastructure in Costa Rica to reduce drug shipments and human trafficking. These includes such facilities as a checkpoint near Golfito on the Interamericana Sur. But with the flood of African migrants and an earlier flood of 8,000 Cuban migrants these facilities have been overwhelmed.

Still an open question is what will happen to these migrants when they finally reach the Mexican border with the United States. Unlike the Cubans they will not benefit from a Cold War era law that would give them residency.

They will have to enter the United States illegally or languish as many do on the Mexican side of the border.

Migrant camp near Paso Canoas is basically a tent city.

Migrant camp near Paso Canoas is basically a tent city.

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