Tico migrants shipwrecked in Caribbean en route to US are still missing

April 24, 2015

Three Costa Ricans who leapt from a sinking boat off the coast of Bahamas are still missing, the Foreign Ministry confirmed Friday. The three had paid smugglers to take them illegally to the U.S.

Rafael Garbanzo Cascante, 42, his wife Edith Alfaro Porras, 40, and a friend of the couple, Eliécer Ruiz Ureña, 46, were reported missing on April 11, the same day the boat in which they were being transported from Bahamas to Miami sank. They are residents of the canton of Pérez Zeledón, southeast of San José.

Garbanzo and Alfaro had lived in the U.S. previously and have two daughters there.

The couple and Ruiz are currently listed as missing by the International Police.

Luis Sánchez, another Costa Rican who was also on the boat that day, was rescued by a vessel a few hours later and sent back to Costa Rica.

Robert Jagger, Costa Rica’s Honorary Consul in Nassau, requested a temporary travel permit for Sánchez so that he could fly back to the country via Miami, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Melissa Durán Gutiérrez said.

Back in Costa Rica, Sánchez talked about what happened that day. He said the boat started leaking and all passengers opted to jump into the water, using plastic containers and other objects as floatation devices. He said he could see the other Tico passengers in the water for a while but soon lost sight of them.

Sánchez said there were also migrants from Turkey and Peru on the boat.

Consul Jagger said a search mission was being conducted throughout the area, including at hospitals and prisons.

Rafael Garbanzo Cascante and Edith Alfaro Porras left Costa Rica on March 26 on a flight from Juan Santamaría International Airport, according to records from the Immigration Administration. Their plan was to travel to Bahamas, via Panama. From there, smugglers had agreed to take them to Miami on a boat.

The couple lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania from 2000 to 2005. Garbanzo worked in construction, and his wife had a job cleaning offices and houses. Their twin daughters, now 11, were born in the U.S.

In 2005 U.S. immigration officials ordered Garbanzo deported and the whole family opted to return to Costa Rica with him.

They maintained hopes of returning to the U.S., and this year they decided to attempt the trip through the Panama-Bahamas-Miami route proposed by a group of smugglers, Garbanzo’s sister María Celeste Garbanzo told daily La Nación.

Their daughters, who are U.S. citizens, flew to Pennsylvania ahead of their parents on March 23 and currently are living with an aunt.

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