Monday 6 February 2023

Costa Rica modified regulations for refugee applications

President Chaves on migrants: the time has come to act

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QCOSTARICA – By way of two decrees, the Costa Rican government modified the regulations for refugee applications, in order to avoid abuses by migrants.

A Venezuelan migrant family begs for money to continue their journey to the United States in San Jose, Costa Rica, Photo by Ezequiel BECERRA / AFP)

The first decree establishes that migrants will have a period of up to one year from the entry into the country, for people to request refuge. In addition, those who are in that category will not be able to leave the country, otherwise, they would lose their status.

“It turns out that there have been people for 10 or 15 years in the country, but they had not applied for refuge; They realized that a work permit could come very quickly; So, after 15 years, they say they are refugees,” said President Rodrigo Chaves.

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Through a press release, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME)- Costa Rica’s immigration service, also indicated that the State will not grant work permits to applicants immediately.

Applicants “must comply with the internal procedure established by the institution (DGME) and that will be communicated in a timely manner.” In this regard, the executive decree states that “neither the refugee application nor the document that accredits a person as an applicant, will give them any right to work in the country.”

Costa Rica President Rodrigo Chaves

The second decree establishes a special category for migrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, who will have a work permit for two years if they renounce their refugee application and register with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), which is pay into the state health plan.

To qualify for this temporary work permit, only those who filed a refugee application between January 1, 2010, and September 30, 2022.

The President said that the current system allows migrants to stay in the country and work just by applying for refugee, which has effects on everyone.

A Venezuelan migrant sells candy to get money to continue his journey to the United States in San Jose. Photo by Ezequiel BECERRA / AF

According to the figures given by the president, 96% of refugee applicants are Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and Cubans.

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The Minister of Foreign Relations, Arnoldo André, explained that the objective of the decrees is that the aid is received by migrants who truly need it and avoid “abuses” by migrants.

The president said that he made that decision after the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry consulted the Central American “partners” and reiterated the call on the international community to “assume shared responsibility” for migration on the continent.

According to the President, Costa Rica spends US$300 million a year caring for people who call themselves ‘refugees’ in the country.

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