Deal To Allow Thousands Of Stranded Cuban Migrants To Reach U.S. Reached After Pope Francis Urges To Resolve ‘Humanitarian Drama’

Central American authorities reached a deal to allow stranded Cuban migrants to reach U.S. shores. Thousands of Cuban migrants remained stuck in Costa Rica after Nicaragua closed its border.

Central American nations agreed on a deal to let the first of thousands of stranded Cuban migrants continue their journey north toward the United States next month, reported Fox News Latino. The deal will free about 8,000 people who fled Cuba and remained stranded in Costa Rica since November. Ministers of the nation met in Guatemala City and agreed to provide flights to El Salvador for the migrants. Thereafter, these migrants will be taken to Mexico by bus.

The first of the humanitarian transfers will airlift some of the Cubans migrants in the first week of January from Costa Rica to El Salvador, confirmed Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry.

Speaking about the deal, foreign ministers from the Central American Integration System regional group and Mexico, who met in Guatemala City to try to find a solution to the crisis, said, “We have agreed to make the first humanitarian transfer in January.”

Reports indicate anywhere between 7,000 and 8,000 Cubans have been living on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua since November 14. After the Nicaraguan government denied access to the migrants, they were forced to survive near the borders. Providing shelter for them has badly stretched the resources of the country, said Costa Rica’s government, reported the Daily Mail.

As per the deal, once the migrants reach El Salvador in Mexico, they will be taken by buses to the United States border for due processing. U.S. legislation has accorded preferential treatment to displaced Cuban migrants. Guatemalan Foreign Minister Carlos Morales noted that only 250 Cuban migrants will initially be flown to El Salvador. However, he did not confirm how many will be entitled to the humanitarian transfer.

Meanwhile, Costa Rica’s foreign minister, Manuel Gonzalez stressed that the deal was an “absolute exception.”

“The solution emerging is an absolute exception and only for those people who entered national territory legally.”

The Guatemalan government has termed the deal as a “pilot” program and added that a work group has been assigned, and coordinating logistics are needed to transport the migrants to the U.S. border. The migrant crisis had become a point of strong contention between Costa Rica and neighboring Nicaragua ever since the latter suddenly closed its borders and denied entry to the Cuban migrants. Since the closure of the border, the number of migrants has swelled to an estimated 8,000. Many among the stranded said they were trying to reach the United States. The majority are hoping the favorable migratory policies toward Cubans would mean nearly all will be allowed to stay and apply for residency.

The deal might have been reached partly because Pope Francis urged the nations to resolve the “humanitarian drama” on Sunday. Subsequently, officials from Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the International Organization for Migration took part in the talks on Monday and reached the deal for the Cuban migrants. It is still not clear who will foot the bill for the logistics, but subsequent meetings should come up with a solution, said the Mexican government.

Deal To Allow Thousands Of Stranded Cuban Migrants To Reach U.S. Reached After Pope Francis Urges To Resolve 'Humanitarian Drama'

Although the U.S. does have a preferential policy towards Cuban migrants, only those who arrive at the border by land are allowed to enter the country and apply for residency, reported the Jamaica Observer. Those who are intercepted at sea are sent back to Cuba under a specially enacted immigration policy referred to as “wet foot, dry foot.”

The number of Cuban migrants seeking entry into the United States has risen sharply from last year after the two countries announced they had mutually agreed to begin restoring relations. However, experts have long argued that the U.S. policies encourage Cuban migrants to undertake dangerous journeys to reach America’s borders.

[Photo by Ezequiel Bacerra/Getty Images]