(QCostarica) Costa Rica has agreed with the United States to offer temporary protection to refugees fleeing Central America. The partnership was announced Tuesday, following an admission by Obama administration officials of its failure to address the surge in refugees fleeing violence, rape and kidnappings.
“Our current efforts to date have been insufficient to address the number of people who may have legitimate refugee claims,” said Amy Pope, deputy homeland security adviser, in a press call on Tuesday morning.
The plan is identify the most vulnerable people in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Costa Rica has agreed to host 200 individuals at a time for six-month periods under the new protection transfer agreement (PTA).
Only those who have been pre-screened by U.S. State Department officials in their country of origin will be eligible to travel to Costa Rica. People who travel to the country on their own will not be accepted into the program.
Carmen Muñoz, deputy Minister of the Interior (viceministra de Gobernación) who is currently acting Director of Immigration (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería), said the agreement will streamline the process to deliver, in less than five days, humanitarian visas.
Muñoz says Costa Rica was chosen by the UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) for political and social stability offered to migrants whose lives are at risk in their home countries.
The Minister of the Presidency (Chief of Staff), Sergio Alfaro said that this is a temporary protection mechanism for the people of these nations – known collectively as the Northern Triangle of Central America – while their paperwork refuge approved in nations like the United States, Canada and Australia.
Central Americans from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have fled their countries in the thousands as violence in their countries spiked in 2015, with more than 110,000 seeking asylum, five times that in 2012. Most are seeking refuge in Mexico and the United States.
“The profile of the people as part of this agreement are environmentalists and community leaders and of the LGTBI movement who are persecuted and threatened in their countries by criminal organizations such as the maras,” explained Muñoz.
Carlos Maldonado, director of UNHCR Costa Rica, said the UN agency will be responsible for meeting all expenditures of the refugees, such as English language learning programs, induction in the culture of the seeking refuge country, as well as maintenance and medical expenses in Costa Rica.
Maldonado stressed that at no time will the number (under this program) be higher than 200 and those receiving a humanitarian visa will live in private homes in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) of San Jose.
Deputy Minister Muñoz added the country reserves the right to request from UNHCR detailed information on each person, in order to prevent abuse of people who are trying to leave their countries with other intentions.
According to the deputy minister, so far in 2016 Costa Rica has seen triple the normal number of application for refugee status from Salvadorans, for Example. Currently, the immigration service is evaluating some 700 applications from that country alone.
In Costa Rica, some 3,500 people live as refugees. In addition to those from the Northern Triangle, immigration records indicate mainly Colombians and Venezuelans.