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UNHCR steps up its response as thousands flee violence in Nicaragua

Briefing notes

UNHCR steps up its response as thousands flee violence in Nicaragua

31 July 2018
Refugees who have fled unrest in Nicaragua are given food in San Jose, Costa Rica July 29, 2018.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling for international solidarity and support for Costa Rica and other countries hosting Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers, as thousands of Nicaraguans flee mounting political tensions, violence and serious human rights violations in their country.

In recent months, the number of asylum applications by Nicaraguans in neighbouring Costa Rica and other countries has increased exponentially. Currently, an average of 200 asylum applications are being lodged daily in Costa Rica. According to Costa Rican authorities, nearly 8,000 asylum claims by Nicaraguan nationals have been registered since April, and some 15,000 more have been given appointments for later registration as the national processing capacities have been overwhelmed. UNHCR is providing an initial support to the Migration authority to increase its processing capacity from 200 to at least 500 claims daily.

UNHCR is strengthening its presence in Costa Rica’s northern border region and, together with the Costa Rican Government, other UN agencies and its NGO partners, is gearing up its response capacity to provide immediate protection and assistance to thousands of Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers, both in the northern region and in the metropolitan area of the capital San Jose.

Many arriving Nicaraguans are being hosted by an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 Nicaraguan families living already in Costa Rica, who are providing an initial safety net for friends, relatives and fellow citizens.

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. 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, in the spirit of solidarity and responsibility-sharing of the Global Compact on Refugees and the application of the Regional Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (known as MIRPS after its Spanish acronym) – a collective regional action plan to strengthen protection and promote durable solutions among countries of origin, transit and destination in Central America and Mexico.

While Costa Rica has received the most asylum claims, Panama, Mexico and the USA have also recorded a growing trend of claims by Nicaraguans in need of international refugee protection during the first half of 2018, with a significant peak in June. The actual numbers in these countries however are still in the low hundreds. Meanwhile other countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are becoming transit countries.

At the regional level, UNHCR will elaborate, in coordination with government authorities, the UN System and partners, a comprehensive regional response to address the international protection and humanitarian needs of Nicaraguan refugees.

In Nicaragua itself, UNHCR is also closely following up on the situation of more than 700 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from El Salvador and Honduras, living in the capital Managua and other parts of the country. Assistance to these refugee families is being provided through our local partners in Nicaragua.

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