In its report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) says it conducted a working visit to Costa Rica from October 14-18, 2018 with the purpose of the visit was to monitor the situation of Nicaraguan asylum seekers and people in need of international protection who have been forced to flee their country and seek international protection in Costa Rica.
The IACHR delegation was composed of Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants; Deputy Executive Secretary María Claudia Pulido; as well as specialists from the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants, the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) and the IACHR Communications Office.
At the invitation of the government of Costa Rica, the IACHR delegation was composed of Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants; Deputy Executive Secretary María Claudia Pulido; as well as specialists from the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants, the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) and the IACHR Communications Office.
During the visit, the IACHR delegation met with President Carlos Alvarado, te Director of Immigration, Raquel Vargas and other government officials, and gathered 259 testimonies from Nicaraguan asylum-seekers in need of international protection, which allowed the Inter-American Commission to identify the causes that forced them to flee Nicaragua, the risks and obstacles that they faced when leaving the country, and their current situation in Costa Rica.
Based on these testimonies, the IACHR was able to identify that from mid-April to mid-October 2018, the people who have been forced to migrate from Nicaragua to seek international protection in Costa Rica are mostly students who participated in the demonstrations and protests; human rights defenders and leaders of social movements; peasants; people who have contributed to and supported demonstrators through the provision of food, safe houses and medical assistance; as well as doctors, journalists, and former military and police officers who have refused to participate in repressive acts ordered by the government.
According to the information received, the rights to life, integrity and personal freedom of these individuals are at serious risk of being violated by the Nicaraguan State. These people have been the object of attacks and threats, and their families have been harassed. Additionally, several of them have warrants out for their arrest and have been arbitrarily charged with crimes—such as financing terrorism, involvement in organized crime, or the illegal carrying of weapons—for no reason other than having participated in demonstrations or supported dissent.
The IACHR delegation observed that the increase in the number of people forced to move from Nicaragua to Costa Rica in recent months is directly related to the identified stages of the repression of social protest that has occurred in Nicaragua since April of this year.
In fact, the arrival of most people to Costa Rica began following the implementation of the so-called “Operation Cleanup” by the National Police, and armed para-police forces, which seeks to dismantle the so-called roadblocks and attack the demonstrators who remained in them.
The testimonies informed the IACHR that most Nicaraguans were internally displaced before deciding to leave their country, leaving their homes and taking shelter with relatives, friends, or in safe houses.
Based on the testimonies, and as a consequence of the intensification of various forms of repression, selective persecution, and criminalization, the IACHR was able to determine that most of these people were forced to flee Nicaragua through irregular crossing points, called “blind spots,” on the border with Costa Rica, increasing the risks and dangers to which these individuals were already exposed
Additionally, the IACHR was informed that these people often walk for long hours through clandestine routes—in some cases with the guide of “coyotes” (smugglers of migrants)—to reach Costa Rica, increasing their situation of vulnerability and risk of becoming victims of other abuses and violations of their human rights.
It is estimated that from January to September 2018, around 52,000 Nicaraguans entered and have remained in the country; additionally, at the time of the IACHR visit, there were a total of 40,386 who had expressed a need for international protection in Costa Rica.
Up to September, 13,697 individuals had formalized their asylum application through an interview with the migration authorities.
As part of the visit, the IACHR conducted a tour to the border town of Peñas Blancas, where it was able to visit the border and the crossing point between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and observe the journey of Nicaraguans through trails and swamps to cross “blind spots” to Costa Rica, jumping the border wall.
The IACHR delegation also visited the temporary shelter located in La Cruz where it interviewed Nicaraguan asylum seekers and in Upala the child welfare agency, PANI, the shelter for unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents, and observed their good conditions and care programs.
Read the report here.