Nicaraguan Refugees Escaping Oppression Flee to Costa Rica

Even after the worst street violence has abated in Nicaragua, the tense and repressive political environment remains far from being resolved. According to Al-Jazeera, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported that around 23,000 Nicaraguan citizens fleeing their homes have sought asylum in the neighboring country of Costa Rica. The UNHCR estimates that 200 applications for asylum are filed each day.

This continuous movement of Nicaraguan refugees reflects the chaos and repression of the Ortega Administration, which has violently cracked down on political demonstrations since April. According to BBC, international observers are accusing Ortega and his government of maintaining control of the country through a systematic program of state retribution. One such indication of these measures was a ban by the Health Ministry on Public Hospitals for treating patients with gunshot wounds received during the crisis. In a conversation with BBC, Nicaraguan doctor Jose Luis Borgen estimated that 300 healthcare professionals, most of them doctors, have been fired by the government.

Many families are left with little choice but to leave their homes for the safety of Costa Rica. The border between the two countries is marked by short barbed-wire fences or even nothing at all. According to the Tico Times, around 100,000 Nicaraguan families lived in Costa Rica prior to the political crisis and many refugees are moving in with friends or families. According to Q Costa Rica, refugees with the resources to travel to San José are able to file applications for asylum, while others able to stay in shelters constructed by the Costa Rican government.

Politically, Costa Rica is responding to the influx of refugees with open arms. Denouncing xenophobia, President Carlos Alvarado Quesada issued a statement on Twitter encouraging Costa Rican citizens not to fall for provocations or calls of hate. Quesada affirmed his country's position, saying, “Faced with the migration situation from Nicaragua, we have worked to guarantee security and well-being and will continue to do so.”

Though generally welcomed, the Nicaraguan refugees have not been met with ubiquitous support in Costa Rica. According to the Tico Times, there have been a number of protests against the refugees, the most notable of which occurred in mid-August when 40 people were arrested when the demonstrations became violent.

The majority of Nicaraguan refugees remain in a state of limbo, their future dependent on a political situation unlikely to change in the near future. However, the overall sentiment of Nicaraguan refugees seems to be a desire to return to their homeland with the chance and supplies to fight against the Ortega government, reported the Tico Times.