MIRPS in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has a long tradition of providing asylum and protection to refugees and asylum seekers. However, its national asylum system is under pressure because of displacement situations in the region, particularly cross border movements from Nicaragua. The country hosts approximately 102,335 persons in need of international protection, this figure represents 2% of Costa Rica total population. Of those, 92,209 are asylum seekers (mostly Nicaraguans – 79,286) and 9,927 are refugees. To address the situation, Costa Rica has been part of the MIRPS since 2017 and has made progress in the implementation of its national commitments in support of protection and solutions for the forcibly displaced. At the same time, support from the international community in the areas of protection, jobs and livelihoods and social protection will be needed to address the needs of the thousands of people seeking safety in the country.
Jobs and Livelihoods
Secured international protection for an increased number of asylum seekers
The Government of Costa Rica has doubled the overall recognition rate of refugees from 21% (2019) to 49% in 2020. To address the increasing numbers of asylum claims, particularly from Nicaragua, and to alleviate the pressure upon the asylum system, in 2019 the Refuge Unit opened a regional office on the northern border. The decentralization of the Refuge Unit secures the right of asylum-seekers to try to find international protection, facilitates access to the national asylum system, and permits the early identification of specific protection needs of this population.
Complementary protection granted to Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Cubans
In 2021 the Government approved the creation of a special category for temporary complementary protection for Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and Cubans who had their asylum claims denied on appeal (Administrative Migration Tribunal). This measure protects these persons against refoulement and provides them with temporary legal status to remain in the country and obtain a work permit. This special category is granted for two years and can be extended for an additional two years.
Medical insurance for 6,000 asylum seekers and refugees in situations of vulnerability
In 2020 the Government’s Social Security Fund the national governing body of health services in Costa Rica entered into an agreement with UNHCR to provide medical insurance to 6,000 asylum seekers and refugees with health vulnerabilities and socio-economic needs. As a result, beneficiaries could seek basic medical attention at local health centers throughout the country, securing their right to health. This project also has contributed to Costa Rica’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy. In 2021, the agreement was extended to 4,000 beneficiaries. By the end of this year, the project will have reached 10,000 persons in need of international protection.
Refugees' access to public social protection programs
The Government grants refugees and asylum seekers access to State-run social programs under the same conditions as nationals. To identify this population and secure access to social assistance programs, the National Welfare Institute (IMAS) has, since 2017, included the category of refugee/ asylum-seeker in their social information sheet which registers potential beneficiaries and facilitates data collection of social groups living in poverty and extreme poverty. In the context of COVID-19, this data has also contributed to direct institutional efforts to assist refugees and asylum seekers, streamline processes, and prevent the duplication of benefits.
Labour mediation for refugees and asylum seekers
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MTSS) has included asylum seekers and refugees into job intermediation programmes. Through “Intégrate al Empleo” (Get Employed) programme the Ministry is promoting new strategic alliances with the private sector and civil society to encourage the inclusion of asylum seekers and refugees in Costa Rica’s labour market.
Continue to provide asylum seekers and refugees with access to medical services and support Costa Rica's Social Security Fund (CCSS)
Strengthen Government data management
For social programming to ensure timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to persons of concern on par with nationals
Facilitate the recognition and validation of diplomas
Obtained by asylum seekers and refugees in their country of origin and promote opportunities for technical training to increase their employability
Promote livelihoods and economic integration of refugees and asylum seekers
Through employment, entrepreneurship opportunities and reduce discrimination during the hiring process