Cuban Migrant Wave Prompts Nicaragua to Bolster Border Force

  • 1,100 Cuban migrants en route to U.S. halted at border
  • Costa Rica is `violating national sovereignty,' Nicaragua says

Nicaragua dispatched its military and police to help close its southern border in a dispute with Costa Rica over the passage of Cuban migrants on their way to the U.S.

Costa Rica’s decision on Saturday to grant seven-day transit visas to 1,200 Cuban migrants who entered the country through Panama “violated national sovereignty,” Nicaragua’s government said in a statement over the weekend. Nicaraguan troops and riot police fired tear gas at people attempting to enter on Sunday in what Costa Rica called a "humanitarian crisis."

Authorities re-opened the border Monday morning to tourists and merchants. Some 450 Cuban migrants were transferred to shelters in Costa Rica while the rest remained at the border checkpoint. Nicaragua’s ambassador to the United Nations, Maria Rubiales, said Monday that Costa Rica had violated the UN Charter and international law by not consulting Nicaragua over the passage of the migrants.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis met with legislators and cabinet members today to discuss the influx of Cuban migrants crossing the country en route to the U.S. through Central America. His government said in a statement it is working with the UN refugee agency to "guarantee the protection of the lives of these persons" and that officials have sent food and bedding to the border.

The number of Cubans seeking to migrate to the U.S. has spiked since the two countries began working in December last year to normalize relations after more than five decades. Almost 28,000 Cubans entered the U.S. in the first nine months of the 2015 fiscal year, according to the Pew Research Center, citing U.S. Census data. Cuban migrants have historically used Central America as a land bridge to the U.S., where under current law they are usually offered the chance to apply for residency after a year.

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