Situation of Nicaraguan refugees in Costa Rica [CRI0345]


In mid-1988, the number of Nicaraguan refugees in Costa Rica receiving assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was 23,750; the majority of refugees live in San Jose, Costa Rica's capital, but 7,000, most of them Nicaraguans, live in rural centres.1

Refugees' integration in Costa Rica is promoted by the government's policy of issuing identity cards and work permits; their standard of living is comparable to that of Costa Ricans in low-income groups.2 The country enjoys a relative prosperity, although some economic trends render it frail. Under this condition, the UNHCR's support is focused on promoting integration and self-sufficiency: in addition to the temporary subsistence aid provided to newcomers, the UNHCR provides assistance for vocational training, management training for small businesses and training for women, which are expected to continue in 1989.3 Other UNHCR proposals for 1989 include the implementation of a small credit program for income-generating activities, and the continuation of housing and agricultural improvement for rural refugees, as well as infrastructure development for education, health and social programs. UNHCR will also assist the Costa Rican Refugee and Immigration Department in documenting refugees and funding counselling services and scholarships for secondary and university education. These programs are backed by a budget of US$6,117,000, and expected to reach the Central American refugee population in Costa Rica, which accounted in mid-1988 for approximately 37,000 individuals.4 For a more detailed review of the development and settlement programs carried out by the UNHCR, a copy of a UN document is attached, providing also a map of refugee distribution in Costa Rica.

It is reported that, according to some Costa Rican officials, "several groups of refugees have refused to participate in work programmes run by international relief organizations and had escaped from the camps to become wandering criminals."5
1. Refugees, (Geneva, United Nations High Commander for Refugees), Special Issue - December 1988, p. 38.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Conflict in Central America, (Chicago/London: Keesing's International Studies, 1987), p. 208.
Attached Document:
-UNHCR activities financed by voluntary funds: report for 1987-1988 and proposed programmes and budget for 1989. Part 4, Latin America and the Caribbean, (United Nations, 1988), pp. 5-10.