Cuban refugees held in Darién

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Anonymous Panama alerted us on Twitter about the horrible story of a family of Cuban refugees that is currently being held at the border with Colombia in the Darién. They arrived on foot from Ecuador, through Colombia, and crossed the dangerous Darién gap on their way up north.

According to this blog post on Riflexiones de una Habanera, the group consists of 7 women, 4 men, and 3 children who are trying to survive on an improvised camp site on the beach of Miel, where they subsist on coconuts and a bit of water given to them by the villagers. They have been there since March 3 - a week now.

The border police, SENAFRONT, has reportedly told them that they can't move, that they are surrounded by minefields and should stay where they are and nobody seems to be able to provide any humanitarian care for these refugees.

Violating basic rights of refugees in routine in Panama, a country where they are denied even shelter and no policies seem to be in place to grant asylum other than to foreign crooks. This situation mimics that of 2009 when a group of Somali refugees arrived in Panama and was held under similar inhumane circumstances in the Darién. Then Minister Raul Mulino announced their deportation and ventilated a host of racist slurs which caused a small uproar.

The Somalis also came from Ecuador, where they had landed after an arduous sea voyage.

A border official at the frontier with Costa Rica told your Bananama Republic recently that these refugees would be much better off going directly to Costa Rica, where they are given shelter and treated humanely.

"In Panama, we are not allowed to offer them anything", said the official.

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