VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis has appealed for generosity toward Cuban migrants "who find themselves in difficulty in Central America."
The pope said following his traditional Angelus blessing Sunday that many of the Cubans are victims of human trafficking, and called on the region's governments to find a solution to the "human drama."
Thousands of Cubans had been migrating through Central America in fear that the year-old warming in U.S.-Cuban relations could end Cubans' special immigration privileges in the United States.
Some 8,000 Cubans have been stranded in Costa Rica since mid-November when Nicaragua began rejecting Cubans from crossing its territory. Costa Rica stopped giving Cubans travel visas last week.
Francis lingered after the Angelus to listen to a youth choir sing Christmas carols.
On Saturday, authorities in Costa Rica announced they had begun deportation proceedings for 56 Cuban migrants trying to get to the United States who entered the Central American nation after it stopped issuing special transit visas..
Costa Rican Immigration Director Kathya Rodriguez said that the 56 are being held in the capital city of San José.
They are not among the approximately 8,000 Cubans who have been stranded in Costa Rica since Nov. 13, when Nicaragua began rejecting Cubans from crossing its territory. Costa Rica stopped giving out transit visas to Cubans on Dec. 18.