Costa Rica groups test stuck Nicaragua migrants for COVID-19

July 31, 2020 GMT

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Costa Rican doctors began giving free coronavirus tests Friday to about 200 Nicaraguan migrants who have been stranded at the two countries’ border because the Nicaraguan government has demanded negative test results.

Clinica Biblica Hospital in the capital of San Jose sent a mobile lab to the Penas Blancas border crossing.

“I thank God that finally we are going to be able to return to our country,” said one migrant, who declined to give their name.

Nonprofit groups also provided food and personal hygiene supplies to the migrants who have been stuck at the border for more than a week.


Some women cried when they saw the mobile lab arrive.

A number of groups, including the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, arranged for the lab to travel to the border. They received financial support from the private sector, foreign donors and the government of Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado.

Many of the migrants had been working in Costa Rica, but lost their jobs and couldn’t make ends meet once the pandemic struck, while others had fled Nicaragua after 2018 anti-government unrest. The cost of living in Costa Rica is considerably higher than in Nicaragua.

Although Nicaragua has been lax in taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus, keeping schools open and encouraging turnout at mass events, President Daniel Ortega’s government has refused to allow the migrants to return home without negative test results and they couldn’t afford to pay for them. So the migrants were stuck in the heat and rain without regular access to food and water.

The Nicaraguan government had not commented on the situation.

The Arias Foundation said in a statement Friday about the start of testing that “this crisis with the Nicaraguans at the border has only one guilty party and it is the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship, which has disrespected the most sacred universal values of respect for human dignity.”

Lina Barrantes, the foundation’s director, said the tests usually cost about $200 in Costa Rica, but the groups had obtained them for $60.

The testing is gradual so not everyone will cross the border together. Results are expected to take 24 hours.