By Yader Luna (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – A group of 92 Nicaraguans have been stranded at points between El Salvador and Honduras since midday Saturday, April 18, because the Nicaraguan immigration authorities have refused to allow them entry.
The group of Nicaraguans is composed of 86 men and 6 women and had been in El Salvador for some 21 days. Forty-eight of them were transported to the border between Honduras and Nicaragua on Saturday with help from the Assisted Voluntary Return program in El Salvador. Nonetheless, when they arrived at the border at El Guasaule, the Nicaraguan immigration office denied them entry.
“We’re on the Guasaule bridge in no person’s land,” denounced Juan Carlos Gutierrez, one of the Nicaraguans waiting for a response from the Ortega government.
Aid provided by the International Organization for Migration
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) came to the aid of the 92 Nicaraguan migrants who had been in El Salvador, working in the informal market and in agriculture, the organization informed last Thursday, April 16.
A spokesperson from the IOM told the EFE Press Agency: “the incomes of these migrant laborers have been affected by the stay-at-home measures (decreed in El Salvador due to the Covid-19 pandemic) and they lack the resources they need to return home.”
According to the organization, they also lacked a place of “shelter” while their situation was being regulated, so the IOM responded to their emerging vulnerability in order to assure their decent, safe and voluntary return.
The group of Nicaraguans were being housed in a temporary shelter set up by the Mayor’s office in the eastern department of La Union in El Salvador; they were also receiving food, water hygiene products and other basic necessities through this office.
Jorge Perraza, the IOM mission head for El Salvador Guatemala and Honduras, indicated that the programs for voluntary return that the IOM attends offers humanitarian, logistical and economic assistance to vulnerable migrants who wish to return voluntarily to their countries of origin, as in the case of these “labor migrants” of Nicaraguan origin.
He added that the program prioritizes the rights and necessities of the migrants, assuring that the decision they make to return to their communities is an informed and voluntary decision.
The Assisted Voluntary Return program in El Salvador is financed by the US State Department through its Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration, with the objective of giving humanitarian aid to migrants that are considering their options for a voluntary return.
Right to Return
This past week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged the Latin American countries to open their borders and allow the return of citizens stranded in foreign countries, as well as offering them health care and other rights.
“According to international law, every person has a right to return to their country of origin, even during a pandemic,” affirmed Bachelet.
In addition, she asked the governments to take all possible measures to guarantee a “secure, decent and voluntary return of their citizens, as well as their sustainable reintegration into society.”
Bachelet indicated that, in cases of the voluntary return of migrants to their countries of origin, the governments are obligated to receive them and to assure their access to health care and other rights. Otherwise, these people are placed “in situations of extreme vulnerability, especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic.”
Second group also refused entry
Over the past weekend of April 18-19, the Ortega government blocked the entry into the country of another group of Nicaraguans, by refusing to permit two repatriation flights from the Cayman Islands to land, arguing the closure of the borders for the Coronavirus.
Despite the fact that the regime hasn’t officially decreed the closure of Nicaragua’s borders, this is the message that the Government of the Cayman Islands gave to the Cayman Airways airline company to inform them of the cancellation of two flights that had been programmed for Saturday, April 18, to repatriate Nicaraguans.
“The government of the Cayman Islands informed Cayman Airways that the Nicaraguan government had closed their borders indefinitely, from today on,” indicated a memo posted on their website.
The airlines sent the affected parties a message in which they termed the measure taken by the Nicaraguan government “incredibly disappointing”, given the large number of people who had reserved seats on the two flights.
In addition, the airlines stated: “the Nicaraguan government says it will reconsider reopening their borders once the world crisis has diminished. In view of this, the repatriation flights are cancelled, and we must cancel your reservation.”
An inhumane action
The former president of the National Assembly Commission for Justice and Legal Issues, Jose Pallais, called the government’s decision to deny these Nicaraguans entrance into their country “illegal, inhumane and criminal”.
“While all the countries of the world organize flights to repatriate their citizens, the regime of Daniel Ortega is doing just the opposite, refusing to allow these citizens to return to their country in an act of cruelty, an act that goes against the constitution, and is a breach of all the treaties of international law,” he emphasized.
Pallais noted that it’s “absurd” for them to suddenly close the borders to Nicaraguans “who wish to return for humanitarian reasons”, when there’s been no official declaration.
“They kept the borders open to cruise ships, to foreign flights, they never closed the borders to anyone, and now they deny access to their own citizens?” he questioned.