From June 18 to date, Costa Rica’s immigration service, Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería de Costa Rica (DGME), has received more than 30,000 applications for refuge from Nicaraguans who have been forced to flee the repression of Daniel Ortega’s regime in their country.

A Nicaraguan holding his country’s flag outside the Nicaragua embassy in San Jose. Photo La Prensa

Of that total, 17,100 already have their provisional card, identification which allows them to have legal permanence in Costa Rica and access to basic services, but they are not allowed to work until three months following the date it was granted.

If the person manages to get a job during this period, he or she can request immigration for change to allow the refugee to work.

Although the biggest wave of forced migration occurred last August, when that institution received nine thousand applications and then in September it received some 4,500 requests, the general director of Migration and Immigration, Raquel Vargas, estimated that 80 percent of that total were already in the country when they made their requests and then considered applying for refuge as an option within the country.

Costa Rica is still receiving Nicaraguans who have found in our country protection from the danger they face in their country.

Vargas made it clear that people who resort to immigration for refuge are offered “total confidentiality”.

The immigration director was clear that, to date, neither the Refugee Commission nor the Refugee Unit has issued has so far granted any refuge, they have only given those seeking refuge the provisional refugee card.

The process of granting refugee status is taking up to eleven months. Vargas said they are working ar reducing that process to three months.

Costa Rica is a signatory to the international protection of refugees, as well as its protocols.

Some Nicaraguans in Costa Rica have no place to go, they camp out outside the Nicaragua embassyin San Jose. Photo La Prensa

To be a refugee a person has to fulfill five mandatory requirements: be a foreigner, express a well-founded fear of returning to their country of origin, that he/she or his/her family is being persecuted, that persecution is for reasons of race, gender, belonging to a specific political group, or political opinion and that its own country does not guarantee the required protection.

“Those five variables are what the commission analyzes, that’s why the refugee status is very exclusive for people who are persecuted and who have that well-founded fear, it is not anyone who can access international recognition as a refugee,” said Vargas

Of the refugee applicants, there are many nationals who have indicated that they do not have any type of document that allows them to prove their origin.

Nicaraguans are not the only foreign nationals seeking refuge in Costa Rica. According to Vargas, the Nicaraguan situation is “very interesting”, in that of the thousands who requested refuge some 30 are being housed in shelters in northern Costa Rica and only one in the south.

Vargas explained that the Nicaraguans find support and help from other Nicaraguans in the country and through social networks. “This is due to a lot of the Nicaraguan culture of having that openness and that humanity to serve their own nationals,” Vargas said.

The immigration official added that some Nicaraguan refugees are also receiving aid from international organizations and civil society that, he believes, has done a very important job locating homes to accommodate Nicaraguans.


Stay up to date with the latest stories by signing up to our newsletter, or following us on Facebook.