Costa Rica: Police Crack Down on Decade-Old Illegal Immigration Scheme


EspañolOn Saturday morning, the Judicial Investigation Police dismantled a decade-old illegal immigration scheme run by a complex web of criminal networks and local police officers in three northern Costa Rica cities: La Cruz, Liberia and Bagaces. The investigators accuse the ring of bringing in people illegally from Nicaragua, each for a US$130-160 fee.

As a result of the 24 simultaneous raids, JIP agents arrested 14 suspects, including five police officers, and 57 Nicaraguans who will be deported back to their country after interrogations. The investigators had been aware of the existence of this scheme for over 10 years, which operated through gangs in both countries (Los Talibanes and Los Catanos), but did not have enough evidence for a crackdown that would lead to effective criminal prosecution until now. The investigators’ task had been rendered even more difficult by the gangs’ sophisticated circumventing strategies and by local police officers who tipped off its members.

Costa Rica, a strong economy compared to its Central American neighbors, receives a massive influx of people every year looking for residency and work permits (which can take years). Nicaraguans make up the majority of such immigrants and it is estimated some 450,000 are currently living there, a considerable percentage of them illegally, doing odd jobs. Citizens of other nationalities, coming from as far as Africa, consider it as a stopover toward more northern countries. Last year the Costa Rican government increased visa requirements and overstaying penalties for Nicaraguan nationals in an effort to curb illegal immigration.

Source: Tico Times.

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