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Costa Rica will offer ‘safe entry’ to Nicaraguans seeking asylum

Costa Rica will try to improve protections for thousands of Nicaraguans who request asylum or refuge in the country through an initiative supported by the UN and the European Union, official sources reported on Wednesday.

The program will establish a “safe and controlled” entry mechanism for people across the country’s northern border to guarantee the asylum rights of those who seek that protection, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement.

This mechanism will be enacted when Costa Rica’s land borders, currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are reopened. Additionally, “monitoring of the northern and southern borders (of Costa Rica) will be strengthened for the early identification of people with international protection needs,” UNHCR added.

The program will be funded through a contribution of 1.2 million euros ($1.43 million), mostly from the European Union.

Costa Rica received 81,000 Nicaraguans who fled the repression of the 2018 anti-government protests. Many of them sought protection as asylees and refugees, saturating the capacity of the local migration directorate.

The initiative also seeks greater participation by civil society organizations in assisting people who request refuge.

Costa Rica has a population of about 400,000 Nicaraguan migrants living in the country, many of whom enter to work some crops, such as the sugarcane harvest and the collection of coffee.

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