HAVANA TIMES – Citizens of Central America, and Nicaraguans in particular, have broken all records for asylum requests in Europe. In 2019, according to preliminary data from the European Office for Asylum Support, the number of petitions nearly tripled: from 8,814 in 2018, to 22,630 in 2019.
However, of the 6,400 asylum requests presented by Nicaraguans, only 306 have received a positive response. Spain has been the chief destination for those fleeing from the regime of Daniel Ortega.
The crisis that has affected Nicaragua since April 2018, and which left 328 people dead, was what triggered an uptick in asylum requests. In 2018, the European countries, principally Spain, received 1,646 requests from Nicaraguans. “In previous years, such as 2017, there were only 31 such petitions, while from January through September of 2019, the provisional estimate is of 4,420 requests,” Maria Jose Vega spokesperson for the UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR), told the Nicaraguan news site Despacho 505.
From November 2018 through November 2019, the preliminary data from the European institution notes 5,761 cases pending of Nicaraguans, while Spain’s Interior Ministry reveals that in 2019, only 167 requests for asylum from Nicaraguans received a positive response. Although a very small percentage of the requests, this was a great leap from 2018, when the Spanish Ministry only gave a seal of approval to four such requests.
The UNHCR estimates that the quantity of Nicaraguans that have left the country due to the crisis numbers around 90,000, while the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights put the exodus at 80,000 using data collected up until May 2019. Organizations such as Jesuit Migrant Services have warned about increased emigration as the economic crisis accentuates.
The report for the European Office for Asylum Support also notes that the presence of Latin American citizens stands out even more in observations of the long-term tendencies. In the first 11 months of 2018, Venezuelans alone appeared among the 10 principal countries whose citizens were seeking international protection from the European Union.
“A number of other Latin American nationalities also presented a record number of requests. For example, the number of requests from Hondurans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans doubled in the first 11 months of 2019,” informed the institution that manages the registry of asylum in all of the European Union.
According to the Spanish Interior Ministry’s registries, the requests for international protection in Spain in 2018 were headed by: Venezuelans: (40,906); Columbians: (29,363); Hondurans: (6,792); Nicaraguans: (5,931); and Salvadorans: (4,784). These numbers reflect the region’s turmoil due to political persecution, violence, organized crime and the deterioration of human rights.
Jonnathan, a youth who is part of the opposition, but who prefers only to use his first name, states that the Nicaraguan police held him in jail for 24 hours in mid-July, 2018 for participating in a march against Daniel Ortega’s regime. During this time, he suffered psychological torture and constant intimidation on the part of the officials. Four months later, he decided to quit his job and move to Spain, where he asked for political asylum.
He filed denunciations of his case with the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. From his point of exile in Europe, he states: “Here in Spain, I can live peacefully, without fear of Police officials, paramilitary or sympathizers of the regime harming me for not thinking like they do.” He is now awaiting a resolution to his request, which on the average takes between two and three years to process.
According to the spokesperson for UNHCR, the situation in Nicaragua hasn’t escaped the attention of the Spanish authorities. “Everything that has happened is known, from the testimonies, and the information from human rights organizations. They know that there’s a parade of people who’ve been in a situation of great risk.” She affirms, “The asylum requests from Nicaraguans have multiplied exponentially.”