Immigration controls beefed up for soccer game

July 25, 2008

Costa Rican officials will beef up immigration controls prior to the country´s next qualifying game for the South Africa 2010 World Cup, which will take place Aug. 20 against El Salvador.

 

The reason behind these measures is to prevent members of Salvadoran maras (gangs) from entering the country, said Mario Zamora, director of immigration.

 

The game has been declared “high risk” by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), the global body that oversees international soccer, as a result of the large number of Salvadorans (at least 4,000), expected to travel to Costa Rica to support their national team.

 

Zamora said Peñas Blancas, the main land crossing between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, will be strengthened because a large number of soccer fans are expected to arrive by bus.

 

“We already had an experience with the Iron Maiden concert, where, given the nature of the activity, we expected people linked to the maras to come. On that occasion we mounted an operation in Peñas Blancas,” Zamora said. “Now we will apply those controls again but on a large scale because we know more people are coming. We don´t want them to take advantage of border congestion to introduce themselves into the country.”

 

Joseph Ramírez, secretary general of the Costa Rican Soccer Federation, said the organization had received requests from at least 2,000 Salvadoran fans looking to buy tickets for the game. However, the federation will reserve only 500 tickets for foreigners.

 
Other Salvadorans who want the see the game will need to buy their tickets in the same outlets as Ticos starting on Aug. 4.

Zamora said his institution would coordinate with Salvadoran immigration officials to know exactly how many people left that country. Based on those numbers, Costa Rican officials will define the measures necessary and their scale.

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