Costa Rica has granted from 2018 to May 2019, 24 refugee status for Nicaraguans who fled the socio-political crisis that began in April of last year. 68 others are expected to be granted status soon.

Living as a refugee in Costa Rica. La Prensa

In addition, 12,238 Nicaraguans who filed for refuge were granted work permits in the same period.

In total there have been 34,827 applications in thie period, according to figures from Costa Rica’s immigration service, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería de Costa Rica (DGME).

The data indicates the majority filing for refuge were men, 21,263 compared to 13,564 women.

According to the DGME, the process takes about 18 months, however, authorities said that “efforts are being made to reduce this deadline.”

“For each of the applications received, the DGME applies the procedure established in accordance with the Convention on the Status of Refugees, so that people are being treated in order at the reception of each of their procedures,” said Raquel Vargas, General Director of Migration of Costa Rica.

In April this year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Acnur) reported that at least 62,000 Nicaraguans had fled because of the crisis in their country. Of this figure, 55,000 went to Costa Rica, many entered the country illegally in order to avoid being detected by the Nicaraguan authorities.

“They have often chosen to undertake the journey on foot, walking for hours on difficult terrain, exposed to heat, humidity and the risk of contracting malaria,” said the UN agency.

What refugee status implies

Once the refugee status is approved, Nicaraguans can obtain a Costa Rican identity document (ID) that proves their legal stay in that country, which allows them to access banking services, the education and health system. Also be able to work legally.