Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Friday that, in the last 10 days, in the heat of the internal conflict in the neighboring country, the requests for refuge by Nicaraguans have multiplied.
Although it did not elaborate, the government of Carlos Alvarado would only say it the requests are from people whose lives are in danger.
Nicaragua is almost two months in on an internal conflict between the government of President Daniel Ortega and protesters, led mainly by university students, who are calling for the ouster of the President and his wife and vice-president Rosario Murillo and new elections. The clashes began on April 18 when the government announced pension reforms and then quickly withdrew them to calm tensions.
“For security reasons, we are not providing exact numbers and names because it is about people who are seeking refuge in Costa Rica, but, in fact, in the last 10 days the number of Nicaraguans has increased, requesting refuge,” said Foreign Minister Epsy Campbell.
In addition to the increase in refugee applications, the Costa Rican government also received an alert from the Cámara de Industrias (Chamber of Industries).
In recent days, the blockades set up across Nicaragua by anti-government protesters has affected the transportation of goods and people to the neighboring country and the rest of the region. Costa Rican trucks buses have to cross Nicaragua to reach Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.
The Costa Rican industry exports to the Central American bloc represents ¢2.6 billion colones (US$4.6 million dollars) daily and Nicaragua is one of the country’s main trading partners.
The events have led to the creation of the Plan de Acción Integral para la Atención de Flujos Migratorios 2018-2021 (Integral Action Plan for the Care of Migratory Flows).
In fact, an inter-institutional commission was set up to prepare Costa Rica for the migration implications that the crisis situation in Nicaragua could cause.
That contingency plan will be implemented under the coordination of the Comisión Nacional de Emergencias (CNE) – National Emergency Commission. The Ministry of Health, the National Institute for Women (Inamu), the National Children’s Trust (PANI) and municipalities are being asked for their assistance.
“We have a plan that anticipates a situation that could become an increasing demand of people entering our country … Above all, coordination is done in case shelters are needed. Our experience allowed us to think about the capacity to respond to emergency situations,” Campbell said.
Campbell was referring to 2016 experience when thousands of refugees that entered Costa Rica via Panama, transiting the country to reach the United States and Nicaragua closed its borders to them. Costa Rica was forced to care for them. Included where some 3,500 Cubans that the government of Luis Guillermo Solis was able to negotiate a deal to get them to Mexico where they then could cross the U.S. border.
At the moment, Costa Rica is not taking any restrictive measures regarding the issuance of visas for Nicaraguans.