Yesterday, the President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, announced that as of today, March 24, any foreigner resident in the country that leaves will lose their migratory status, that is their legal residency.
Although I am still working on getting the full details, the loss of status appears to be only temporary, while the national emergency continues. That is, once the emergency is over, status is restored.
It’s not what the president Alvarado said, but bear with me, he never said legal residency would be revoked, his words were ‘would lose their immigration status’. Then, in the evening news on Telenoticias, Ignacio Santos (not my favorite anchor) stated the loss of status was only temporary.
I still have to verify all of this, but it unleashed a sh*tstorm in the expat community with resident status in the country. Mostly the Nicaraguans.
Semana Santa (Easter Week) is around the corner. In the midst of an expanding pandemic Costa Rica needs to contain the spread of the covid-19, ‘flatten the curve’.
As of yesterday, we have 158 confirmed cases (154 active when taking into account the 2 deaths and 2 recoveries).
Nicaraguans, the single largest foreign resident (legal and illegal) community in Costa Rica, if tradition holds, will head north for the holidays.
Every year at this time the northern border is “repleto”. It is the busiest border crossing season, even more than Christmas.
At the start of Semana Santa thousands on thousands of Nicaraguans head for the homeland. Days later, the same tens of thousands make their way back to Costa Rica. And then some.
This year. there are two major problems, the first a continuing, the second the virus.
In the first, Costa Rica has, has always had, a problem of controlling its border. The president knows this. Everyone knows this. The reasons why are many and not really important in the face of the second, the covid-19.
Given that the coronavirus in the country is an import, the first case of an American woman from New York and the rest from Costa Ricans and residents bringing it back from their travels abroad, having border control is very important.
Then there is the fact that the regime of Daniel Ortega is not taking the pandemic seriously, the only country in the Americas and perhaps beyond that is inviting tourists to visit, it can’t afford to lose out on Semana Santa dollars and taking advantage of everyone else closing its borders.
While the official report has only two confirmed cases in Nicaragua, unofficially reports pour in from all corners of the country, the virus is spreading, as it has all over, people are getting sick, people are scared, they are hoarding, they are relying on community action to protect themselves.
Threatening taking away residency may be the only effective way to control the seasonal migration, given the problems, albeit different, of the governments on both sides of the border.
It is shitty, threatening a sector of the population – all foreign residents. I don’t agree with it. I didn’t expect it.
What I did expect was the Colombia solution to the Venezuelan situation and the spread of the virus in the country that has 306 confirmed cases and 3 deaths: close the borders to everyone, including its own citizens, from in and out.
I believe the Alvarado government should rethink this or at least make it absolutely clear that the removal of migratory status is only a temporary measure and will be restored once we are out of this.
Anything less is ‘mala vibra’.