‘Strong rise’ in Nicaraguans fleeing to Costa Rica, refugee system strained – Global issues

Double the number in the past eight months, the agency now estimates more than 150,000 Nicaraguans have crossed the southern border in search of refuge in Costa Rica.

“These numbers, as of February 2022, confirm that more Nicaraguans are now seeking protection in Costa Rica than all refugees and asylum seekers combined, during the civil wars in Central America in the 1980swhen Costa Rica was a sanctuary for those fleeing violence,” UNHCR Spokesman Boris Cheshirkov, told a news conference in Geneva.

Trouble Trends

UNHCR is concerned that this trend could put a severe strain on Costa Rica’s already strained asylum system and overwhelm support networks in the country.

The dramatic increase in the number of asylum seekers from Nicaragua corresponds to major socio-political events in the country“Mr. Cheshirkov explained.

Furthermore, Nicaraguans are also increasingly seeking further protection.

In the first two months of 2022, the number of asylum seekers in Mexico, nearly a third of the total, for the whole of 2021.

Open border

Throughout COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Costa Rica has opened its doors to those seeking international protection.

According to UNHCR’s border monitor in Costa Rica, many new asylum seekers are finding work through the seasonal coffee harvest.

A UNHCR spokesperson warned, “However, their economic security could be compromised once the harvest is over, increasing pressure on response organizations and the UNHCR programme.

He noted that due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, which has weakened the individual support networks that provide shelter and economic opportunity to Nicaraguans, Costa Rica is experiencing high levels of unemployment.

This further increases the need for support from UNHCR and its partners.

Beyond the world’s radar

Mr. Cheshirkov said UNHCR supports Costa Rica and host communities in welcoming asylum seekers and refugees through registration, legal assistance, cash assistance and donations of hygiene kits and cleaning, food and mattress.

The agency also provides psychosocial support, emergency shelter, job training, and activities that promote peaceful coexistence between refugees and their communities of residence.

A UNHCR spokesperson said: “At a time when the crisis in Ukraine is making daily headlines, these numbers underscore the importance of keeping in mind less visible displacement situations that still exist and growing around the world,” said a UNHCR spokesman.

We call on the international community to continue to support Costa Rica and other countries hosting Nicaragua in their efforts to receive and provide international protection to those forced to flee their countries”.

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