1. Description of refugee situation
Where does the population of concern live?
Mostly in urban settings.
- Refugees (urban setting): 8,738
- Asylum Seekers (urban setting): 90,614
(Source: Data provided by Government and partners to UNHCR)
Find live data, information and fact sheets on the refugee situation in Costa Rica on the UNHCR Operational Portal as well as Global Focus.
2. Costa Rica's response to the refugee situation
Which partnerships have been strengthened or have been made possible thanks to the implementation of the Global Compact of Refugees?
Costa Rica has increasingly become a major destination and transit country for asylum seekers from the Americas’ four main situations (namely from Nicaragua, Venezuela, NCA and Colombia), as well as mixed movements. The country has the highest number of asylum seekers, refugees and other persons in need of international protection for 30 years. The number of asylum applications exceed the 90,000 people and is expected to continue increasing if causes of displacement persist.
Since 2017, Costa Rica is one of the six participating countries in the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS in Spanish), the regional initiative to address forced displacement in Central America and Mexico, through its own national chapter called Framework for Protection and Solutions for Response to the Situation of Refugees (MINARE).
By adopting the CRRF/MINARE as a direct implementation tool for the operationalisation of the GCR at the regional level, the country has reorganized its response to refugee situations adopting a whole-of-society, whole-of-state strategy. To support the implementation of the MINARE, a two-level structure was established: a technical level managed through a National Technical Team (NTT) and conformed by technical staff from five institutions that support the response to asylum seekers and refugees. These include the General Directorate on Migration and Foreign Affairs, the Social Welfare Institute (IMAS), the Vice Minister of Government and Police, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cult, and the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy. The NTT supports the implementation and institutional coordination to advance on agreements. At the political level, an Executive Committee was created conformed by high-rank officials of the previously mentioned institutions. This level provides political support to the agreements. The Vice Minister of Government handles, by presidential mandate, the coordination of both structures.
MINARE was created as a forum to coordinate responses for people with international protection needs. Hence, MINARE facilitates the coordination and joint work among other institutions and public entities to provide a comprehensive response for people forced to flee.
MINARE entails as well broader partnerships outside the public sector, including civil society organizations, the private sector and the academia.
- Line Ministries
- UN Agencies
- National NGOs
3. Steps towards meeting the objectives of the Compact
The Social Welfare Institute (IMAS) has the mandate to implement poverty reduction programmes at a national level. Based in MINARE’s agreements, IMAS provides social assistance to asylum seekers using the same selection criteria as nationals. This is possible by including persons of concern as a category in the Personal Information Sheet (FIS, for its acronym in Spanish) for collection of socio-economic and demographic data. Thus, the persons of concern living in extreme poverty can qualify for the state’s welfare programmes including cash assistance, scholarships and other subsidies or in-kind assistance. This change allows IMAS to comply with the special protection mechanism that applies to this population according the Interamerican Human Rights System.
In line with MINARE, Costa Rica’s Migration Authority decentralized the Refugee Unit by opening a new office in the community of Upala, at the northern border. The Regional Refugee Unit enables the early access to the refugee status determination procedure. The office is equipped to receive refugee claims, hold eligibility interviews and provide identification documents to asylum seekers, as well as to identify special needs and necessary referral to services early on. The decentralization reduces waiting times for eligibility assessment interviews and alleviates the workload of central offices in San Jose.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security allows refugees and asylum seekers to submit labour inclusion requests through the public employment service platform. In addition, the Ministry along with the private sector signed a series of MOUs to strengthen joint initiatives to promote the inclusion of persons of concern in national job placement schemes such as “Integrate al Empleo” and “My First Employment”. Such programmes aim to increase asylum seekers’ probabilities to enter the labour market by providing training on soft and technical skills.