PEÑAS BLANCAS, Costa Rica – Around 300 Nicaraguans stranded on the Costa Rica border were tested for COVID-19 on Friday using kits donated by Costa Rican organizations.
Some 500 Nicaraguans have been in limbo at the border for two weeks as their government refused to allow them to return to their country after they lost their jobs in Costa Rica during the pandemic.
Visibly exhausted from sleeping in makeshift shelters of cardboard and plastic, the immigrants were tested with the help of the Arias Foundation for Peace, the Bible Clinic and the Association Center for Labor Rights Without Borders.
They have not been able to return to their country because the government of Nicaragua has demanded they test negative for COVID-19 as a prerequisite.
Results are expected by Monday, which would allow those who test negative to return to their country.
One of those stranded, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, told EFE that “this is like getting in and out of an oven” and criticized the Nicaraguan authorities for abandoning its own citizens.
A woman identified herself as Iris said amid tears that she had finally managed to take a bath after several days, and hoped to be able to return to Nicaragua with her husband after getting the test results.
The Nicaraguans have been kept in limbo on the small strip of land after completing the immigration process for leaving Costa Rica but then prevented from entering their own country.
Over the past two weeks they have survived on donations and contributions of food and water, and shared the only toilet available in the area.
“The first three days no one knew what was going on until the officials in Costa Rica realized and helped us, brought us water and juice,” Iris said, protecting her head from the strong midday sun with a bag.
Human rights organizations have said that the Nicaraguan government led by President Daniel Ortega has violated the Constitution and the rights of citizens to return to their country.
As the Nicaraguan government refused to help conduct the tests, the only viable option was help through donation. In this regard, the Costa Rican authorities allowed the Nicaraguans to re-enter in order to get themselves tested.
“This is an act of solidarity and humanity towards these people who are on the border so that they can soon be able to resolve the immigration situation,” the director of social action at the Bible Clinic Hospital, Laura Brenes, told EFE.
Brenes added that 300 tests were performed on Friday and that more could be conducted in the coming days if necessary.
Costa Rica has recorded 17,820 cases of COVID-19 so far, with 150 dead. Nicaragua has registered 3,672 cases and 116 deaths, although independent observers suspect the number could be much higher.