PANAMA CITY.- A group of 129 Cuban irregular migrants sheltered in the capital of Panama were transferred today to another refuge located in the western province of Chiriquí, bordering Costa Rica, the Ministry of Public Security reported today.
The Cubans were in a facility of the Pastoral organization Cáritas and were moved to a government shelter located in Los Planes de Gualaca, according to a ministry’s statement.
This group of irregular migrants crossed the isthmus on their way to the United States, but they were left stranded in Panama after the end of the US immigration policy for Cuba.
The transfer to Chiriquí was announced last week when Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela said that Cubans deserved to be in a shelter with "more dignified" conditions than those offered by Cáritas.
Panama's Deputy Minister of Public Security Jonattan Del Rosario said on Tuesday that "the transferred migrants will be provided food and temporary accommodation, while their situation is analyzed and defined," an official statement said.
"This is an exceptional measure that can be applied to the Cuban migrants registered in a census today, who remained in the country because of the end of the US immigration policy," Del Rosario said, according to official information.
He added that "the Panamanian authorities will continue to apply immigration laws rigorously, including the deportation of those who have entered the country illegally, acting within the framework of respect for international law and human rights."
"Del Rosario recognized and highlighted the support of the security forces that channeled their efforts into the cleaning and closure of the facilities where these migrants remained sheltered," said the official statement.
At the beginning of last January, the United States announced the end of the "dry feet, wet feet" policy, adopted in 1995 and that allowed Cubans to pursue residency one year after arriving in US territory, even if they did it illegally, except if they were caught at sea.
The passage of Cubans through Central America is a phenomenon that has grown in recent years with the thaw between Havana and Washington.
In 2016, Panama received more than 27,000 irregular migrants, many of them Cubans, including Haitians, Africans and Asians, who entered the Darién jungle, a natural border with Colombia, on their way to the United States, according to official data.