Nicaragua sends Cuban border-crashers back to Costa Rica

 16 Nov 2015 - 4:11

Nicaragua sends Cuban border-crashers back to Costa Rica
Cuban migrants who were detained by immigration police wait to board a bus that will take them to the Nicaraguan border, in San Jose, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Authorities in Costa Rica say they will issue special seven-day transit visas to 1,600 Cuban migrants who have been detained in recent days after crossing over from Panama. (AP Photo/Enrique Martinez)


Managua: Nicaragua sent thousands of Cubans back to Costa Rica Sunday after the US-bound migrants stormed across their shared border, accusing San Jose of "deliberately and irresponsibly" sparking a humanitarian crisis.

The diplomatic spat erupted after Costa Rica said Saturday it was giving temporary visas to a group of about 1,000 stranded, penniless Cubans, telling them they had one week to cross the country and continue their journey toward the United States.

But Nicaraguan police said thousands of Cubans then stormed the Penas Blancas border post Sunday and illegally crossed into Nicaragua.

It said they crossed "by force," causing "serious altercations" and "material damages" at the border crossing.

"The Costa Rican government, in a deliberate and irresponsible action, hurled and continues hurling thousands of Cuban citizens at Nicaragua's southern border posts," leftist President Daniel Ortega's government said in a statement.

It accused Costa Rica of "unleashing a humanitarian crisis with serious consequences for our region."

Nicaraguan police later said they had deported the Cubans back to Costa Rica "with the aim of reestablishing order."

There has been a surge in Cubans seeking to reach the United States since the two Cold War foes announced a historic rapprochement last December. The thaw has raised expectations that Washington may soon end its policy of granting residency to Cuban immigrants who reach its shores.

Cubans seeking to leave the communist island for the United States are increasingly traveling overland through Central America and Mexico rather than risk crossing the Florida Straits by boat.

The group stranded in Costa Rica were left high and dry when authorities there dismantled a human trafficking ring that was charging Cubans $7,000 to $15,000 to send them to the United States.

They had flown from Cuba to Ecuador before working their way up through Colombia and Panama, they told officials.