Photo Gallery: Nicaraguans’ Frustrated Odyssey to Return Home Amid Covid-19

Over a thousand Nicaraguans are still stranded in Panama for lack of permission to return to Nicaragua.

Hundreds of Nicaraguans left with no way to make a living in Panama had to postpone their return to Nicaragua due to new requirements agreed upon at the last minute. The accord between the Panamanian, Costa Rican and Nicaraguan authorities is aimed at guaranteeing an orderly trip back in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

On the night of July 1, a police patrol was dispatched to the large Albrook Mall bus terminal in Panama City, the country’s capital. An agent used a megaphone to explain to the Nicaraguans massed there that they must leave the terminal, and that the process of authorizing their trip would take at least 72 hours.

“I was left without work, and it’s very hard to get another job now as things stand,” Juana Eraso, 57, related. She’s been in Panama for nearly a year, and says she felt “comfortable” working as a cook or a cleaning assistant. However, she also stated that she no longer has a place to sleep because she turned in the key to the room she was renting.

Return Home Amid Covid-19
Nicaraguans line up at the National Transport Terminal in Panama City, waiting to return home. Photo: Bienvenido Velasco / EFE / Confidencial


Return Home Amid Covid-19
The departure of a “caravan” of 15 to 20 buses on July 1st was announced on a local television station in the last week of June, during an interview with a representative of the Nicaraguan community in Panama. He made this announcement prior to the weekend of June 27-28 when Costa Rica temporarily blocked the entrance of travelers wishing to pass through that country to Nicaragua as the Managua government had blocked some hundred returning citizens from entering the country for 18 hours, trapping them on the Costa Rican side of the border with no explanation. Photo: Bienvenido Velasco / EFE / Confidencial


Return Home Amid Covid-19
On Tuesday, June 30, Costa Rica announced that they had reached an agreement with Panama and Nicaragua to allow the Nicaraguans to travel through in transit. The operation includes the requirement that travelers contact the Panamanian authorities in order to maintain an orderly and coordinated flow of migrants between the countries, whose borders are otherwise closed due to the pandemic. Photo: Bienvenido Velasco / EFE / Confidencial


Given the crowd that descended on the Albrook Bus Terminal, the Panamanian Immigration Office emitted a communique emphasizing that “all migratory movement must be duly authorized by Immigration, the Health Ministry and the country that would receive them.” Photo: Bienvenido Velasco / EFE / Confidencial


An official source explained to the EFE News Agency that they have recorded the data of those people who were in the terminal, and that the departure of the first group of 65 would be delayed for at least 72 hours, to verify their status in Panama and coordinate with Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Photo: Bienvenido Velasco / EFE / Confidencial


On Monday, the Panamanian Border Patrol detained some thirty Nicaraguans who were blocking the border between Panama and Costa Rica in protest for not being allowed to continue their trip to Nicaragua. Those detained were sent before a civil judge. Photo: Bienvenido Velasco / EFE / Confidencial


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