San Jose Province: Costa Rica urged Latin American nations Tuesday to coordinate efforts on handling Cuban and African migrants traveling through the region in bids to enter the United States.
Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez told a meeting of regional migration and foreign ministry officials gathered in Costa Rica`s capital that the migratory flows threatened to create a situation like the one in late-2015 to early-2016 when around 8,000 Cubans were stranded in his country and had to be flown out.
"Cuban migrants currently continue to arrive at the borders of Costa Rica and Panama despite the express requests of the countries to not travel to Central America," he said.
"This situation threatens to create another potential crisis scenario if the number of people arriving keeps growing."
The San Jose meeting included officials from Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and the United States. Nicaragua -- which has a tempestuous relationship with its neighbor Costa Rica -- was notably absent.
At least 2,000 Cubans have arrived in Panama in recent weeks, coming from Colombia and Ecuador.
All are intent on reaching the United States, which has a policy dating from the Cold War to allow them in and put them on a fast-track to residency.
Gonzalez insisted on Costa Rica`s policy of no longer allowing the Cubans to enter its territory, after clearing out thousands that had been left stranded by a November decision by Nicaragua to close its border to them.
A deal with El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico eventually saw the stranded Cubans flown out -- at their own cost, for the majority of them -- to continue their journey up to America`s border posts.
Latin American authorities have also observed an uptick in the number of migrants from outside of the region, particularly from Africa. Their situation is complicated because they usually do not have documents, do not speak English, and often do not have diplomatic representation in the countries.
"If we don`t work together and within the UN system we will not be able to come up with an integral solution to this problem," Gonzalez said.