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Costa Rica Overwhelmed With Nicaraguan Asylum Seekers

The number of refugees seeking asylum in Costa Rica has overwhelmed the neighboring country’s immigration authorities, that can process only 200 Nicaraguans a day are applying for asylum

A Costa Rican immigration officer requests documents from Nicaraguans at the border on July 24. Foto Alonso Tenorio

In recent months, the number of asylum applications has increased exponentially as Nicaragua is no in its fourth consecutive month of anti-government unrest.

Nearly 8,000 asylum claims by Nicaraguans in Costa Rica have been registered since April and some 15,000 more have been given appointments for later registration, reported Q Costa Rica.

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According to William Spindler, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency,  many of the Nicaraguan citizens who leave their country are welcomed by the between 100,000 to 150,000 Nicaraguan families that already live in Costa Rica and that offer them an “initial safety net”.

At a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday, Spindler added, “the UNHCR appreciates the efforts of the Costa Rican authorities in keeping the country’s borders open to Nicaraguans in need of international refugee protection, in line with its long tradition of solidarity,” agency spokesman William Spindler said

Refugee claims are not handled at the border, Nicaraguans have to make their way to the immigration central offices in San Jose, some 285 kms away, more than a 4 hour bus ride.

“At the same time, UNHCR calls on the international community to provide support to Costa Rica and other countries hosting Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers.”

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The UN plans to “strengthen its presence” along Costa Rica’s northern border and provide support so immigration authorities can increase their processing capacity to at least 500 claims a day.

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