Costa Rica’s president, Carlos Alvarado, spoke at the first Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, Switzerland to detail the country’s refugee policies and ask for international help in the matter.
“It is a painful paradox that in an age so abundant in economic and technological developments, humanity has not been able to overcome one of its most evident problems, but also has seen an increase in the number of forcible displaced persons,” Alvarado said.
“We must take a stand against this failure.”
President Alvarado asked for support for Costa Rica and other countries with limited resources that welcome large numbers of refugees.
“We need international cooperation in order to guarantee financial sustainability to maintain and expand the coverage of our social programs to refugee and migrant people that come to my country,” he said. “There is a gap between what countries like Costa Rica are providing with great effort to the refugees, and what their actual needs are. This gap needs to be closed.”
Watch President Alvarado’s entire speech below. The English portion begins at the 40-second mark:
The Global Refugee Forum comes days after Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged Costa Rica to expedite the processing of Nicaraguan refugee requests.
“More than 70,000 refugee requests [from Nicaragua] in 2018 and 2019 alone, in a country with a population of just 5 million people,” President Alvarado said in Geneva. “There is a significant risk for continuing displacement of Nicaraguans into our country.”
Citing UN data, President Alvarado said 10.5% of Costa Rica’s population is now comprised of immigrants.
Alvarado announced that with support of the UN Refugee Agency (ACNUR), Costa Rica will offer medical insurance for all asylum seekers and their families for one year.
The president also said the Costa Rican government is currently providing additional social benefits to nearly 115,000 immigrant households in poverty.
“At the same time, the efforts to offer access to both the universal social programs and the cash social benefits has put a significant pressure over the already strained public finances of Costa Rica,” President Alvarado said.
Representatives from more than 100 countries are attending the Global Refugee Forum, which ends on December 18.