by Marco Lopez
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, Fri. Sept. 2, 2022
A recent report from the Associated Press highlights the pressures being placed on the Costa Rican asylum system as a result of an influx of Nicaraguans seeking refuge in the country. At this time, almost 200,000 applications are yet to be processed, with 9 out of every 10 being submitted by a Nicaraguan national, the report says. The majority of the persons are reportedly seeking political asylum following a severe crackdown by the Daniel Ortega administration on opponents.
The wave of migrants began moving into Costa Rica in 2018 following countrywide repression following protests against the Ortega regime. Protestors, church officials, politicians in the opposing party and students have left their home country and fled to Costa Rica.
Asylum-seekers now account for 4% of the 5 million persons who make up the population of Costa Rica, the report outlines. This puts the country in the top four nations worldwide in terms of number of asylum applications received last year – trailing behind the United States, Germany and Mexico.
Costa Rican officials have confirmed that this reality will put the fledgling administration of Rodrigo Chaves to the test, at a time when the country is still focused on recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, like many others in the region, and has insufficient available jobs to accommodate the influx of working-age entrants.
The country has been chipping away at the sizable list of asylum applications and has set up some appointments to formalize the process as far as 9 years from now. Three months after receiving asylum, qualified persons can apply for work, but the transition – from upending a life in their home country to starting a new one—has proven to be a difficult one.
So far, a total of 134,000 Nicaraguans seeking asylum have reached the US border in 2022, but the choice country for refuge continues to be the Latin American nation of Costa Rica. The country, however, has a higher cost of living than their home country, and many have issues finding a job, with some saying that some employers are reluctant to recognize the government-issued card identifying asylum seekers.