The UN Refugee Agency reported that during the last eight months the number of people fleeing from Managua, Nicaragua, to Costa Rica has doubled. To this day, there are over 150,000 people who have been displaced.
Nicaragua has been characterized for generating important population flows to foreign countries, with two main destinations: The United States of America and Costa Rica.
Since 2018, More than 108,000 people from Nicaragua have been forced to flee their country and three-quarters of them have sought protection in Costa Rica.
The UN agency indicated that the current number of Nicaraguans seeking shield in Costa Rica already exceeds the total number of refugees and asylum seekers in the 1980s with the Central American civil wars.
Migration experts elucidate that the increase in asylum applications, is a consequence of “important socio-political events; among them, the presidential elections that took place in November.”
Daniel Ortega’s perpetuation in power, has led to the arrests of more than 40 opponents in Nicaragua, among them the seven presidential pre-candidates seeking to confront his ruling. Repression and violence have been Ortega’s main strategy against his opponents and critics.
Given the catastrophic situation in Nicaragua, the Costa Rican government decided to keep its borders open for persons in need of international protection. The challenges have been tremendous, given the hardships faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to UNHCR’s border monitoring, many of the asylum seekers found work during the coffee harvest season; however, their economic security will be in jeopardy when said period ends. Especially, since Costa Rica is just slowly and gradually recuperating from a devastating economic situation.
The conditions for refugees are appalling: in-country assessments showed that, as a result of the pandemic, many Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers are unable to cover their basic needs; for instance, some eat once a day or not at all. Additionally, unemployment rates have augmented, forcing people to take loans or work in exchange for food.
“As the needs of the people of Nicaragua increase, the world’s attention seems to dissipate,” said Milton Moreno, UNHCR’s representative in Costa Rica. “In the absence of a timely and adequate response, we run the risk of people suffering needlessly and another completely preventable situation arising,” he mentioned.
There is no doubt the situation is far from easy and instead requires assistance and help. Individual support networks that provide shelter and economic opportunities for Nicaraguans are weakening and the need for funding for both UNHCR and its partners is growing.
“Costa Rica and UNHCR cannot overcome these challenges without help. We ask the international community to support us so that we can help the refugee populations,” Moreno concluded.