Sunday 26 September 2021

Costa Rica Must Guarantee Human Rights of People Fleeing Nicaragua Crisis

Costa Rica is the main destination for Nicaraguan refugees.

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The international community must support Costa Rica in its efforts to receive, protect and support people fleeing the human rights crisis in Nicaragua, said Amnesty International.

Nicaraguan migrants fleeing unrest at home wait to request refuge in Costa Rica. Photograph: Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters

“Forced migration is a consequence of the serious human rights crisis in Nicaragua. The impact of President Ortega’s government’s repressive strategies is clear even in Costa Rica,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

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“By allowing Nicaraguans to enter the country, the Costa Rican government is saving their lives and giving them the freedom they are denied in their own country. But many challenges remain: above all to lead a strong and serious first response to the situation of the Nicaraguan people, which is deteriorating due to a lack of effective access to rights such as health, education and work. The international community shares this responsibility and must support Costa Rica.”

Last week, an Amnesty International delegation, comprised of the Amnesty International Spain director, Esteban Beltrán; the Americas director, Erika Guevara-Rosas; and the researcher for Central America, Astrid Valencia, traveled to Costa Rica to meet with groups of Nicaraguans who had to leave the country due to the crisis, including peasant farmers, human rights defenders, journalists and victims of human rights violations.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are approximately 42,000 Nicaraguans in need of international protection in Costa Rica, of whom 23,000 have begun the process of applying for refugee status in the country.

Amnesty International representatives visited San José’s La Carpio neighborhood, where they talked with Nicaraguan families who had to leave because of ‘Operation Cleanup’, a repressive clampdown against people protesting the Daniel Ortega government.

The delegation verified that they live in overcrowded and unhealthy conditions, without access to basic services such as education and health, and are unable to join the labor market due to delays in the procedures for obtaining refugee status and work permits.

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In a meeting with Amnesty International, the Costa Rican president, Carlos Alvarado, pledged to design and approve a plan of action to attend to Nicaraguans in need of international protection as soon as possible.

This plan should be based on the generation and analysis of reliable data on the number of Nicaraguan people in Costa Rica and their needs, and should focus on significantly improving coordination among the different state bodies involved. In addition, it should involve simplification of the application process for refugee status and guarantee effective access to human rights.

In the report Instilling terror: From lethal force to persecution in Nicaragua, published last October, Amnesty International verified the internal displacement and migration of people due to the well-founded fear of being attacked, detained or harassed if they stayed put.

The organization documented the lack of effective investigation of crimes under international law and violations of human rights, as well as the impunity and lack of trust in the institutions responsible for guaranteeing access to justice – all of which, among other factors, have triggered displacement and migration.

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