Historically, Central America has been characterized as a region of origin, transit, and destination for migratory flows, some seeking better living conditions and others seeking to protect their lives, liberty, and personal integrity. In recent decades, this social displacement has shown a considerable increase, and the conditions of vulnerability of the people who transit as part of these mixed migratory flows have also worsened.
The number of people trying to reach the United States through the Darien jungle, between Panama and Colombia, has tripled in August, despite the warning from the United States authorities to prevent their entry into that nation. The massive arrival of migrants at the southern border of the country reveals a humanitarian crisis that requires the presence and coordinated action of the Costa Rican institutions and the cooperation of the international community, in order to guarantee their human rights and attend to the multiple needs they present, which range from the most basic, such as access to drinking water, food, health, shelter, a place to stay overnight, to the most complex, such as those related to the right to international protection.
It is important to point out that the mixed migratory flow, which includes single people, as well as family groups, has identified many children and pregnant women who, according to the Costa Rican legal system, deserve special protection. The Ombudsman, Angie Cruickshank Lambert, spent the previous week carrying out an inspection at the old fairgrounds in Paso Canoas and at the Bicentenario Sur-EMBISUR Migration Station, where she was able to talk with government authorities in the area and with the migrant population.
Urgent issues to address
Among the main findings resulting from this visit, the Ombudsman’s Office identified the need to urgently address the conditions of infrastructure, cleanliness and access to drinking water in the fairground (Paso Canoas). Also, the collection of timely information records that allow the identification of the number of people who remain in the place, the particular care needs, as well as the reference of those cases that require transfer to the South Bicentennial Station (EMBISUR). It is essential that, based on this record, follow-up is provided on the actual intervention of each of the institutions responsible for the care of these people.
In line with the foregoing, the Ombudsman’s Office insists on the need for the Costa Rican State to urgently adopt uniform immigration policies that guarantee comprehensive attention to the flows of people who use the Central American countries as a bridge to the north, without having to no intention of staying long periods of time in some of them and of those who, due to different circumstances (health status, roots in the country, among others), find it impossible to continue the trip to the final destination in a short time. Inter-institutional responsibility and coordination must be established to guarantee said care, in safeguarding the fundamental rights of these people.
It is essential that the migratory responses or solutions provided to these people are not aimed solely at resolving the aspect of their irregular entry into the country (migration control), but rather that any decision guarantee the protection of their fundamental rights, considering the conditions of vulnerability that characterize these mixed migratory flows, mainly those people who are most vulnerable, such as children and adolescents, pregnant women, older people, people with disabilities and those who require differentiated care by virtue of their protection needs.