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Costa Rica receives spike in Nicaraguan refugee applications

Costa Rica received 5,379 refugee requests by Nicaraguans in July 2021, according to a report from Reuters, which cited data from the Immigration Administration (DGME).

The July figure is triple the number of refugee requests submitted by Nicaraguans in May of this year. It also represents the highest number of applications received by Costa Rica from Nicaraguans since 2018’s deadly protests in the neighboring country.

“We are amazed at the number of people who have arrived, most of them activists or people from civil society organizations,” Claudia Vargas, a representative of the Arias Foundation in San José, told Reuters.

The spike in Nicaraguan refugee requests comes as President Daniel Ortega’s regime has drawn widespread criticism for detaining political opponents ahead of this year’s presidential elections, in which Ortega seeks reelection.

Costa Rica is among the countries that have condemned the Ortega administration’s behavior. Most recently, the Foreign Ministry issued a “call to respect human rights and freedom of expression in Nicaragua” after police raided La Prensa, an independent newspaper.

Nicaragua has in turn accused Costa Rica of “continuous interference in the internal affairs of other countries.”

More than 87,000 Nicaraguans have sought asylum in Costa Rica since 2018, according to a February report from the United Nations Refugee Agency. The same UN agency has commended Costa Rica for its support of Nicaraguan migrants.

“Costa Rica’s generosity in assisting people in need of international protection is an example to countries the world over,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“Countries like Colombia and Costa Rica are going the extra mile to welcome people forced to flee. But they cannot do it alone. Efforts by the international community are essential to support them,” he added.

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