Press Release

IACHR Conducts Working Visit to Costa Rica, Presents Report on the Forced Migration of Nicaraguans

January 14, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a working visit to Costa Rica—through its Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, and its Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI, by its Spanish acronym). The visit sought to present the Commission’s report on the forced migration of Nicaraguans and to obtain information from Costa Rican authorities, civil society organizations, and displaced Nicaraguans concerning the situation of people displaced in the context of the ongoing human rights crisis in Nicaragua. The IACHR thanks the State of Costa Rica for its open attitude to this visit.

On December 13, at an event attended by Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Ventura Robles, Commissioner Vargas presented the report Forced Migration of Nicaraguans to Costa Rica, which processes information collected by the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants during its own visit to Costa Rica on October 14–18, 2018, which led to recommendations being made to both the State of Costa Rica and the State of Nicaragua. At this presentation, Commissioner Vargas praised Costa Rica for its open-border policy regarding one of the largest displacement processes in the Americas, which has led more than 70,000 Nicaraguans to head to Costa Rica alone. The IACHR’s Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants highlighted the recommendations made both in the Preliminary Observations issued after the 2018 visit and in the report itself concerning the full enjoyment of the rights of individuals who request asylum and other forms of international protection. The Commissioner also stressed the recommendations made in the report concerning the processes to grant asylum and other forms of international protection, and urged the State to simplify and streamline procedures and to strictly enforce the principle of non-refoulement, as well as to consider any objective conditions that might enable prima facie recognition for certain groups. Concerning the exercise of the economic, social, and cultural rights of people subjected to forced displacement, Commissioner Vargas highlighted the recommendations made to ensure the effective enjoyment of these rights, which include granting a work permit from the moment asylum is requested and at the State’s discretion, building more shelters in border areas, and granting access to physical and mental healthcare and to primary and secondary education, along with exemptions regarding paperwork based on the special crisis conditions that have triggered displacement from Nicaragua. Commissioner Vargas also stressed the recommendations made in the report concerning the fight against discrimination and xenophobia, through positive actions and training and awareness-raising campaigns. He also noted that the principle of shared international responsibility must be taken into consideration to comply with these recommendations in accordance with the receiving State’s human, technical, and financial capacity.

Finally, Commissioner Vargas noted that the human rights crisis in Nicaragua is still ongoing. He stressed the urgent need for the Nicaraguan State to take all relevant measures and implement the IACHR’s recommendations to ensure adequate conditions for the safe, voluntary return of people displaced in the context of the crisis.

The IACHR delegation also met with authorities of the Costa Rican State, and specifically with officials at the Department of Migration and the Health and Labor ministries. Those meetings sought to promote communication and coordination, to enable compliance and monitoring regarding the Commission’s recommendations, based on the principles of shared international responsibility and full respect for the rights of displaced persons, asylum seekers, and people who request other forms of international protection. The IACHR thanks Costa Rican authorities for their willingness to share information, show their progress, and acknowledge the challenges that remain pending in Costa Rica concerning migration, in connection with the serious human rights crisis that is ongoing in Nicaragua.

The Commission’s delegation also took part in meetings with exiles representing Nicaraguan civil society in Costa Rica. On December 11, a panel discussion was held on forced migration from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, with more than 22 organizations representing exiles from the peasant, student, and social movements, LGBTI activists, human rights defenders, journalists and other media workers, and victims’ organizations, among other groups. The delegation travelled to the Nicaraguan border to see conditions there and gather relevant statements and information concerning the situation of displaced peasants and their families, who are living in rural areas within Costa Rica. The IACHR delegation also held working meetings in San José with representatives of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL, by its Spanish acronym) and of the human rights group Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Nicaragua Nunca Más.

“Given the magnitude of this phenomenon, the State’s willingness and efforts remain insufficient to meet the basic needs of people displaced from Nicaragua, whose condition remains very precarious, particularly concerning economic, social, and cultural rights. This partly happens because the receiving State has limited resources to face the difficulties posed by mass forced migration from Nicaragua caused by the serious repression and violation of human rights in that country. However, as evidenced in the statements we collected from displaced persons our teams worked with during the visit, it is also linked to discriminatory and xenophobic remarks made against Nicaraguan migrants. The Commission will continue to monitor very closely the public policies of the Costa Rican State concerning all these issues,” said Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva.

“The continuing exile of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans in Costa Rica, despite the difficult conditions they face, shows us how urgent it is to create conditions for their safe return to Nicaragua. Those conditions are currently unavailable, because the Nicaraguan State is effectively suspending the right to social protest and seriously restricting all civil liberties,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, the IACHR’s Rapporteur for Nicaragua.

Commissioner Urrejola added that “the Commission will insist on denouncing this situation and demanding a response to it through all its mechanisms, and once again calls on the State of Nicaragua to restore conditions suitable for a democratic State that ensures the rule of law and enables Nicaraguans who have fled and are facing precarious living conditions to return home.”

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 009/20