In the first three months of this year Costa Rica received 20,257 refugee applications from Nicaraguans, five times more than those registered in the first quarter of last year (4,004), the Costa Rican Immigration told Confidencial.
Nicaraguan migration is growing northward and southward. While the important migratory flow to Costa Rica increases, at the same time, the flow to the United States has reached record figures in recent months. Between January and March 2022, US Customs and Border Protection Office recorded 41,080 detentions of Nicaraguans at the land border with Mexico.
Meanwhile, in Costa Rica, by the end of March 2022, that country’s Immigration Office counted 137,289 requests from Nicaraguans who arrived in the country since 2018, following the outbreak of the socio-political crisis that persists in Nicaragua.
That figure will continue to increase, said Carlos Felipe Huezo, Director of SOS Nicaragua Human Rights Costa Rica, who estimates that, by the end of this year, they may exceed 80,000 requests, according to the current migration flow.
The economic situation of Nicaragua, added to the continuous repressive actions by the Ortega Murillo regime against non-governmental organizations, universities, musicians, the Catholic Church, and the constant besiegement against the population critical of the Government continue to push the population to leave the country. “Despite the dictators’ claims of economic growth, the population is living with unemployment, insecurity and uncertainty,” said Huezo.
The director of SOS Nicaragua also commented that the application figures only correspond to people who have made the call to schedule an appointment with Costa Rican Immigration and have been granted the refugee application card, but there is a number of people beyond these official figures, who have failed to make the appointment due to economic issues, lack of information or because they remain working irregularly.
Less than 3% of asylum applications approved
Of the total number of refugee applications that Costa Rica Migration received from Nicaraguans, between 2018 to March of this year, only 3,783 have been approved, that is 2.7%. Last year only 215 applications were approved and 253 were rejected.
The number of denied applications is similar, 3,796, which are cases that “do not qualify within international protection,” Migration indicated.
“In order to obtain a refugee card, you have to prove with facts that you are a politically persecuted person, but not all people have the necessary means or evidence to prove it,” Huezo expressed.
The response time continues to be a hurdle for refugee applicants. “Whether it is for the initial appointment, which consists of the process of receiving the case and (which is when) the refugee application card is granted, or for the eligibility appointment, which is the one that defines whether you are granted refugee status or not, for both processes there is a slow and late response,” explained Amy Chavez, advisor on immigration procedures of the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress.
“If today a person applies for refugee status through the 1311 hotline set up by immigration, they will not have it (the appointment) until January of next year, and if they do it through the platform they set up on their website, it would be until March 2023,” she noted.
Huezo also assured that the eligibility appointments normally take two to three years, a situation that discourages people. “Because of the time-period, many miss the interview, live illegally, some do not manage to find decent work and risk returning to their country,” he added.
Deadline to apply for Complementary Protection Category has expired
A Complementary Protection Category was created at the end of 2020 to provide protection to Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and Cuban nationals who are denied refugee status and are in a vulnerable condition.
The deadline to apply to this special category expired on February 28, 2022, and, according to data from the Immigration Office, 2,434 Nicaraguans have complementary protection, 59% of the total, followed by Venezuelans with 36% and Cubans with 6%.