The number of Cubans entering Uruguay through the land crossings from Brazil is noticeably on the rise, it was reported Tuesday. According to press reports, so far this year 135 people of that nationality have crossed through the Rivera pass from Santana do Livramento at an average of six individuals daily. Uruguayan Migrations authorities have reported that of the 135 who came in only two went out at a later date. Many of them were carrying the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which added to the migrant services overwhelming.
Uruguay's Law 18076 regarding refugees states that every person has the right to request and receive refuge in the national territory when persecuted for racial, religious or nationality issues or if their lives and freedom are under threat.
In 2021, 2,887 Cuban nationals arrived in Uruguay, 450 of them through the Rivera border. When they enter Brazil seeking refuge, the Migration Directorate tests them for COVID-19.
Due to the delays stemming from the high demand for tests, many Cubans had to remain in the contingency center until they received their results and those who came out positive had to be placed under quarantine, thus adding to the already complicated situation, which led to a change in sanitary protocols, according to Giovani Conti, General Director of Promotion and Social Action of the Rivera City Council, which had to deal with the new issues on its own after the Refugee Commission stopped conducting telephone services until borders were reopened in November 2021. “When they were there, they helped us because there was an important filter, because before, refuge was not granted to all those who arrived,” added Conti.
The City of Rivera has been also handling the extra costs of these operations. “We are going to be giving this support until January 31 and then we pass the baton to Foreign Affairs. We are looking for financing because we come with a holed wallet,” Conti explained.
A contingency center for refugees was installed in tents with a capacity for between 35 and 40 people, which were donated by the United States Embassy in Uruguay. The facilities even have air conditioning. Once there, migrants are provided with three meals a day plus personal hygiene items.
Conti insists the Foreign Ministry should play a more relevant role and help with the costs of the operation. Uruguayan Law also states that public immigration officials “shall refrain from prohibiting the entry of any person who expresses their intention to request refuge,” which is not tantamount to being a refugee. Conti also pointed these migrants do not fit into the traditional concept of refugee.