Solidarity Helps 148 Stranded Nicaraguans Return Home

The Nicaraguans entered the mobile hospital in groups of ten to be tested for COVID-19.  The service was provided by the Biblical Clinic of Costa Rica. Photo: EFE

Costa Rican authorities reported that 21 Nicaraguan migrants tested positive for the novel Coronavirus and couldn’t be repatriated.

By Ivette Munguia (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Over a hundred Nicaraguan migrants, who had been stranded at the Penas Blancas border station between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, finally began entering their home country on Sunday.

This occurred after 148 of the 169 migrants tested for COVID-19 were confirmed as negative. The tests were provided by organizations from civil society, although presenting proof of this status was a requirement imposed by the Nicaraguan government. Most of the stranded migrants had been unaware of this requirement when they transmitted their permits to exit Costa Rica.

The results of the COVID-10 tests were disclosed at noon on Sunday, August 2, provoking great emotion among the group that had been waiting at the borderline for two weeks. They then collected their personal items and set out to finally enter their home country.

As he folded up the black plastic that had sheltered him for 14 days, a youth from Esteli stated that he felt “very grateful” to the people who donated the COVID-19 tests.  He noted that when he arrived at the border crossing, “I never imagined that they’d do this to us.”

Lawyer Wendy Flores of the Nunca Mas [“Never again”]Nicaraguan Human Rights Collective, declared that the situation the migrants lived through on the border was “pitiful”. “People are expressing the pain that they’ve gone through here since July 18. They’ve been under the sun, the rain, suffering hunger, and sleeping on the ground in subhuman conditions. At this moment, there’s a feeling of joy,” she stated.

The sick were not allowed to enter

While the majority of the migrants crossed the border in small groups, Raquel Vargas, Costa Rica’s General Director of Immigration, told the media that the 21 Nicaraguans who had tested positive for COVID-19 couldn’t return to their country. She assured that the Costa Rican authorities would set up a temporary shelter where they could receive medical attention.

“Those who tested positive will be given attention through civil society. These organizations will assume the costs of food and medical treatment. [Costa Rican] Immigration Services will set up a place where these organizations of civil society can attend to the people,” Vargas explained.

The Costa Rican official specified that after these Nicaraguans had recovered from their illness, the civil society organizations that are helping have also committed themselves to retesting them, so that they can enter Nicaragua.

Constitutional rights had been denied these Nicaraguans

The group, estimated to number some 500 people in mid-July, was drastically reduced from that number.  Part of them crossed the border at unguarded entry points “in groups of 15 – 30,” while another part reentered Costa Rican territory. This was the explanation offered by Attorney Gonzalo Carrion from the “Nunca Mas” Collective, during an interview on Sunday, August 2, on the internet news program “Esta Semana”. The program can be seen over YouTube.

The COVID-19 test that Daniel Ortega’s government has demanded of Nicaraguans as their entry ticket back to their country, “should never have been [required], and if it was to be done, they needed to have performed the test in Nicaraguan territory, no matter what the result,” Carrion declared.

The Nicaraguan State “has the obligation” to receive its citizens, even if the result of the Coronavirus test is positive. In the latter case, the sick person “should receive health services,” he said.

“By constitutional mandate, no one should be rejected. The Constitution doesn’t establish this impediment. Regardless of testing positive, our demand is that the Constitutional mandate be respected, which says that Nicaraguans can enter and leave with no obstacles. That’s their human and constitutional right,” Carrion emphasized.