Bangkok Post

Plan to move migrants hits an obstacle


SAN JOSE: Thousands of African, Haitian and Asian migrants bound for the United States have amassed in immigratio­n shelters in Panama and Costa Rica as plans to relocate them to less crowded areas to lower the risk of spreading the coronaviru­s have faltered.

Early last week, Costa Rica’s government said it had begun transferri­ng about 2,600 migrants headed for the United States from its southern border with Panama to its frontier with Nicaragua, citing concerns that large crowds could further spread the virus.

However, the head of Costa Rica’s immigratio­n office, Raquel Vargas, told Reuters on Saturday that the transfer was suspended until further notice.

“We must find a solution,” Mr Vargas said after Nicaragua decided to send its military to its southern border.

Mr Vargas said the transfer of the first group of migrants in coordinati­on with Panama was “very successful”, but that under the current circumstan­ces more people could not be moved.

Costa Rica has reported 295 confirmed coronaviru­s cases and two deaths so far, and has taken stringent measures to curb the spread of the virus. Panama is the Central American nation with the most cases, with 901 confirmed infections and 17 deaths.

By Saturday, most of the migrants were in the Panamanian provinces of Darien and Chiriqui, Mr Vargas said. Another 377 remained on Costa Rican soil, mostly in the southern city of Golfito and some staying at a government shelter in La Cruz, next to Nicaragua.

Most Central American nations have closed their borders to prevent the spread of coronaviru­s.

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