Costa Rica is best known for its vacation beaches and lush rain forests. But recently it’s become a thoroughfare for tens of thousands of migrants from South America and elsewhere who are hoping to reach the U.S.
Many are from the Caribbean, but a significant number trekking through the country are Africans and Southeast Asians. “We’ve never seen anything like this,” says migration officer Marvin Rodriguez.
Late last year, thousands of Cubans came. They got stuck in Costa Rica when Nicaragua refused to let them continue northward. Then soon after came Haitians, Nigerians, Congolese, and even Kashmiris started coming. Authorities say about 150 migrants arrive every day, though only about 30 can sneak out daily into Nicaragua. That’s left most migrants stranded at Costa Rican shelters.
In just the last four months, more than 6,500 migrants have been registered entering Costa Rica’s southern border. The majority have told officials they are from Congo. But most are believed to be Haitians who were living in Brazil and left when their construction jobs in the run up to the Olympics ended. With so many migrants coming through, authorities say even if they could determine nationalities, mass detention or deportation is not an option financially or morally.