Migration Flow from Nicaragua Intensifies

Leaving repression, persecution and a depressed economy

Nicaraguans on the move.

Manuel Orozco, researcher at the Inter-American Dialogue, establishes an average of “two out of every 100 Nicaraguans left the country in 2021.”

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The worsening of the sociopolitical crisis that Nicaragua has faced since April 2018, with the increase in political persecution and criminalization of protest, added to the systematic economic deterioration of the last three years, are some of the factors that have influenced that more than 140,000 Nicaraguans decided to migrate in 2021.

Manuel Orozco, a researcher for the Inter-American Dialogue, who has studied the behavior and impact of Nicaraguan migration for decades, detailed, through his social networks, that “two out of every 100 a hundred Nicaraguans left the country in 2021,” referring to the 83,000 reaching the Mexican and United States border, while another 40,000 sought refuge in Costa Rica.

He said that “others went to third countries or entered through illegal border crossings or irregularly.” In addition, he stressed that all this migratory flow is “one of the many consequences” of Nicaragua “living in a dictatorship.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHRC), through a statement released this Monday, indicated that this year it received information “on the increase of Nicaraguans in forced displacement due to the escalation of repression and the climate of terror and persecution that prevails in the country against anyone considered an opponent of the Ortega Government.”

Through the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), the IACHR learned that Nicaraguans displaced forcibly “have been victims of direct threats of arrest by agents of the National Police or sympathizers of the Government.”

It also mentions that in other cases many of the people who decided to leave the country, said that they lived in a “climate of terror and anxiety due to the constant presence of Police at their homes, pursuing and surveillance acts, and even the refusal to allow them to travel to other departments.”

Among the main groups that have fled Nicaragua, according to the testimonies collected by the IACHR, are: human rights defenders and journalists; students who participated in the demonstrations of April 2018, legal representatives of persons deprived of their freedom; female health workers opposed to Government policies; prisoners released under Amnesty Law in 2019; relatives of people in prison or murdered in the context of the crisis; and political and social movement leaders who were threatened by the continuation of arbitrary detentions in the country.

The IACHR denounced that some of the people who tried to leave the country have been subjected to “interrogations at the airport by agents of the National Police, as well as inspection of personal documents, computers and cell phones,” consequently there has been an increase in the mobility of people through irregular border crossings or “hidden entry points.”

More Nicaraguans willing to migrate

A survey conducted between December 5 and 13 by the Costa Rican firm CID Gallup, sponsored by Confidencial, revealed that increasingly more Nicaraguans are open to the possibility of migrating.

The analysis, which had the participation of 1000 people at the national level, interviewed by telephone, revealed that 65% of those consulted indicated as “a lot or some” that they would migrate if they had the opportunity. On the other hand, 33% assured that their possibility of doing so is “little or not at all probable.”

The main reason for migrating, according to those interviewed who were open to the possibility, is the economic situation of the country (62%). They also indicated that they would do so to seek a better future (21%) and because of the political situation of Nicaragua (6%).

It is more difficult to get to the United States

Unfortunately, Nicaraguans who begin the migration journey increasingly face more dangerous situations and more complex policies to achieve asylum or refuge in another country.

Recently, in early December, the governments of Mexico and the United States agreed to reactivate the “Quedate en Mexico” (Remain in Mexico) program, remembered as one of the policies implemented by the Trump Administration, in which migrants are forced to wait in Mexican territory the responses to their asylum applications.

The agreement between the two neighboring countries came after US Justice Department ordered the program be resumed, which had been repealed when the Biden Administration took office.

More than 240 human rights, civil rights, refugee aid, immigration and religious organizations, led by Human Rights First and the Commission for Refugee Women, urged President Biden, through a letter sent on December 17, to immediately put an end to the “Remain in Mexico” policy under Title 42, considering it “damaging and illegal.”   

The policy known as Title 42 under the public health statutes, dates to 1944. During the Trump administration, in March 2020, it was interpreted to justify the US Border Patrol and Customs immediately expelling anyone or any merchandise entering US territory that could be a danger to spread the virus. 

During Fiscal Year 2021, 3,293 Nicaraguans were expelled under the so-called Title 42, according to data published by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). So far in fiscal year 2022 (October and November) there have already been 1,007 Nicaraguans expelled under the new interpretation of the statute.

According to the CBP, in fiscal year 2021 there were 50,772 apprehensions of Nicaraguans trying to enter the United States, which corresponds to an increase of 1,500% compared to the 2020 data.

So far in fiscal year 2022 (October and November), there have already been 22,938 arrests of Nicaraguans, according to updated data from CBP. Julia Neusner, a refugee protection lawyer at Human Rights First, indicated through her social networks that ten days after the launching of the Remain in Mexico program, the Government of the United States returned 176 migrants from the El Paso port of entry, while “continuing to use Title 42 to expel” migrants.

Of the 176 migrants returned to Mexico from El Paso, United States, between last December 8 and 17, 111 were of Nicaraguan origin, 38 Venezuelans, 14 Cubans, 7 Colombian and 6 Ecuadorians.

“The continuation of Title 42 by the Biden Administration and the expansion of ‘Remain in Mexico’ are endangering lives and creating a humanitarian disaster on our border,” Human Rights First denounced.

It also insisted that the Biden Administration “should take immediate steps to end its use of these inhumane and illegal policies and restart asylum in accordance with international law and United States law.”

The organizations warn that people seeking asylum in the United States who are treated under Title 42 statute or under the “Remain in Mexico” policy face dangers such as kidnappings and serious violations of their rights.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.