Central American governments agree on Cuban migrant deal

Central American governments agree on Cuban migrant deal allowing passage to United States

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A Cuban migrant uses her cellphone near a basket to collect money at a temporary shelter at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in Penas Blancas, Costa Rica, December 24, 2015.

Central American countries have agreed to a deal which will allow thousands of Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica passage to the United States starting from next month, governments in the region said on Monday.

The pilot program has been reached between officials in Guatemala city and is due to begin in early January, Guatemalan and Mexican officials have said.

The deal, which is an outcome of an official meeting in Guatemala City, aims to airlift a number of Cubans - initially around 250 of them - to El Salvador in order to tackle the migrant crisis.

Then, the migrants will be sent to United States by busses through Mexico, Costa Rica's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Cubans are concerned that in the aftermath of reestablishing diplomatic relations Washington will cease or change its immigration policies which grant Cubans relatively easy visa-free residence.

However, Nicaragua and Ecuador - both allies of Cuba unlike Costa Rica - block the passage of migrants without visas.

A backlog has led to many Cuban migrants who use the countries as a transit point through United States to be left stranded in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica, where the flow of Cuban migrants has increased nearly 80 percent this year, stopped issuing transit visas to Cubans earlier this month.

"The solution emerging is an absolute exception and only for those people who entered national territory legally," Costa Rica's foreign minister, Manuel Gonzalez, said.

The country says providing shelter for the high number of migrants is damaging its resources.

The deal aims to tackle the migrant crisis by providing an alternative route to the migrants.

There are currently an estimated 8,000 Cubans in Costa Rica barred from entering Nicaragua.

Earlier this month, The US called on central American governments to find a solution to the humanitarian crisis.

Cuban mass migration to the US first started when communist leader Fidel Castro overthrow the US-backed government of Cuba in 1959 and aligned itself with the Communist USSR.

Cubans who feared of the negative consequences of the political transition then immigrated to US, mainly during 1960’s and 1970’s.

In support of the those fleeing the communist regime, the US gave Cubans financial assistance and automatic residence with the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act.

After a half-century estrangement, the United States and Cuba marked a new era in their diplomatic ties by re-opening their embassies in July.

TRTWorld and agencies