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2,000 Cuban migrants remain in limbo

Men, women, children grow restless in Costa Rica

Cuban migrants take part in a protest blocking the Pan-American Highway, demanding access to Nicaragua, in Peas Blancas, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015.
Cuban migrants take part in a protest blocking the Pan-American Highway, demanding access to Nicaragua, in Peas Blancas, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. (ESTEBAN FELIX/AP)

SANTA CRUZ, Costa Rica – As part of a growing surge of desperate Cubans who fear the U.S. policy on asylum is coming close to an end, a group of undocumented Cubans was trapped in Costa Rica Thursday.

The estimated 2,000 undocumented include pregnant women and children. Costa Rican authorities believe that the majority paid a human trafficking ring thousands of dollars to help them get to the U.S.

Cubans who can afford to avoid the treacherous Florida Straits are flying to Ecuador, where they are not required to have a visa. Once they made it to Costa Rica, authorities folded the trafficking ring and they were on their own. Cubans blamed the crisis on U.S. immigration policy.

"This policy encourages illegal emigration from Cuba to the United States and constitutes a violation of the letter and spirit of the migration accords," Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Relations said in a statement Tuesday.

Costa Ricans are hosting the migrants in shelters, gave them temporary visas and were suggesting a "humanitarian corridor." The migrants have no intentions of returning to Cuba. But Nicaraguan troops were not allowing them to cross through and used rubber bullets and tear gas to deport hundreds Saturday.

During a news conference in Spanish Sunday, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez criticized Nicaragua for "sending the army of a country and throwing it over a migrant population in the situation that they are in and they are men, women and children."

A Nicaraguan government spokesperson said during an interview in Spanish with teleSUR Wednesday that the blame was on Costa Rica for "forcefully throwing all of those Cuban citizens who are making their way to the United States illegally."

Cuban migrants were complaining about both Costa Rican and Nicaraguan authorities. One told a CB24 reporter that they had been separated from their families during the journey others said that without their passports they were unable to retrieve cash that relatives in the United States had sent them.

Meanwhile, most of the migrants were unaware that they were in the middle of a long standing border conflict. Nicaragua, a close ally of Cuba, and Costa Rica, a close U.S. ally, have two pending border disputes at The International Court of Justice.

 

INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: Understanding Cubans' exodus of 2015