Costa Rica Requests Support to Assist Refugees

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Arnoldo Andre Tinoco

Foreign Minister Arnoldo Andre Tinoco warns that the effects of the Nicaraguan situation “are being felt directly here with the migratory wave.”

By EFE / Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The Costa Rican Government will maintain its historic policy of humanitarian assistance for refugees but warned that it needs international support because its resources are not enough to attend the migratory waves it receives.

In an interview with EFE on Thursday, Costa Rican Foreign Minister, Arnoldo Andre Tinoco, said that assistance of the migratory phenomenon must be shared by countries of the region, international organizations and must include financial support for countries with tax revenue problems like Costa Rica.

“The issue of migration is not a national problem, it is international, regional. Costa Rica has a unique characteristic as a host country for migrants, contrary to the others in the region who are senders ,” the Foreign Minister pointed out.

The Minister affirmed that his country currently has “a number that exceeds the limits of reasonableness in applicants for refugee status which is estimated at 140,000 people in standby,” mostly Nicaraguans, he said.

Tinoco stated that Costa Rica has a “limited administrative capacity” to attend to applicants for refugee status, which means that there are appointments for interviews that are being given for seven or eight years from now.

The largest flow of migrants that historically arrives in Costa Rica comes from neighboring Nicaragua, which has increased since 2018 with the socio-political crisis that erupted in that country with the protests against the government of Daniel Ortega and the repression that followed.

The minister affirmed that the effects of the Nicaraguan situation “are being felt directly here with the migratory wave.”

Caribbeans and Venezuelans

To the Nicaraguans are added flows of Cubans, Venezuelans and Haitians who enter through the Panamanian border, of which many continue their passage to the north of the continent bound for the United States, but many others remain in Costa Rica.

“Costa Rica is going to continue with its humanitarian host policy and addressing the principles of refuge but has clarified that the financial situation does not allow it to attend to this alone and needs international financial support. It seems unfair to have to go into debt and pay interest to solve a problem whose origin is not Costa Rica,” said the Foreign Minister.

Andre Tinoco explained that Costa Rica has made an analysis of its needs in this area in the short, medium and long term to present it to the international community in search of financial support, ideally non-reimbursable.

The United States has been one of the countries to which Costa Rica has approached for support and bilateral meetings have already been held to address the treatment of the migratory crisis.

“The United States visited us with a large delegation in a working table in which we are looking for ways to obtain the support we need so much for this issue that includes refugees and the populations that we receive,” he said.

Costa Rica is a country of 5.1 million inhabitants and according to official data about 10% of them pertain to migrants. However, that figure may be higher according to some estimates. For example, Foreign Minister Andre said that between 750,000 and one million Nicaraguans currently live in Costa Rica.

“We are a poor country that has strong unattended local needs and to which migrants’ needs are added, with a fiscal restriction because the country cannot get more indebted. The country is doing its best but without international aid we will not be able to increase the level of attention to the migrants,” he concluded.

Political prisoners in Nicaragua

During the interview, the Costa Rican foreign minister also expressed his concern for the situation of political prisoners in Nicaragua, as well as for the violations to freedom of press and the annulment of more than 1,200 non-governmental organizations.

“In multilateral organizations we have supported resolutions condemning the serious human rights violations occurring there. We are concerned about the 180 political prisoners that remain. We are concerned about the suppression of press freedom and of expression, and the annulment of more than 1,200 non-governmental organizations,” declared the high diplomat.

The Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister assured that when the current government of President Rodrigo Chaves took office on May 8, “it was considered” to reestablish the presence of an ambassador in Managua, but the possibility was discarded after the expulsion of the delegation of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Managua.

“The expulsion of the OAS and its diplomats unexpectedly made us reverse the situation and maintain the relationship as it is. Nicaragua withdrew (recently) its ambassador Duilio Hernandez and has sent a chargé d’affaires, a matter that we interpret as reciprocity given the Costa Rican position,” Andre said.

The previous Costa Rican government (2018-2022), presided by Carlos Alvarado, did not send an ambassador to Nicaragua and in various international forums denounced human rights violations in that country and advocated for the return to democracy.

Despite the current bilateral situation, the Costa Rican Foreign Minister is confident that relations with Nicaragua on border issues will take place normally.

“We are interested in keeping excellent border relations where we share phytosanitary, customs and health controls, the fight against drug-trafficking and border security,” he indicated.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times