Q COSTA RICA – The Government of Costa Rica will give a new extension, this time up to six months, so that agricultural entrepreneurs can legalize their migrant workers without applying fines on the hire of undocumented (illegal) foreign labour. This is the sixth time since 2013 an extension has been granted.
The extension will be by via a decree, confirmed Carmen Muñoz, deputy minister of Interior (Gobernación). The country’s immigration service is a dependency of that ministry.
The last extension expired in December of 2015. But the whole of 2016 passed without the publication of a decree. The new extension is expected appear soon in the official government newsletter, La Gaceta.
The law establishes fines ranging from two and up to 12 base salaries for employers who take on illegal migrant workers. It includes domestic helpers, construction workers, security guards and agricultural workers, among others. The sanctions are currently between ¢848,400 and ¢5.09 million colones.
Despite the law applying fines to employers is difficult given the need of the agricultural sector to have available ready labour for seasonal crops such as coffee, melon, sugar cane, orange, pineapple and watermelon, among others.
Most of the undocumented workers are from Nicaragua.
Muñoz explained that the extensions have been given due to the difficulties encountered by employers in the procedures.
In that sense, agricultural companies have asked the Ministry of Labour (Ministerio de Trabajo) to apply a current agreement with Nicaragua and to send recommendations to the immigration service that allows the entry of temporary migrant labour.
For the season 2016-2017 the recommendation is to allow the entry of 12,934 workers. The areas with the highest demand are Guanacaste, with 4,294 applications (for melon, watermelon, sugar cane, and orange) and Puntarenas with 4,143, which includes the Coto Brus coffee zone and many watermelon and melon plantations in Lepanto, Esparza and Garabito. For Alajuela’s northern zone, the recommendation is for 3,123 workers.