On March 10th this year, the UNHCR made the entirely false claim that 77,000 Nicaraguans are currently seeking refugee status in Costa Rica. That claim is a downright lie. Despite the mercenary opportunism of the Costa Rican government, which has received over US$600m to assist alleged political refugees from Nicaragua, Costa Rica’s own migration statistics give a very different account.
At the end of 2017, Costa Rican migration statistics put the number of Nicaraguans already resident in Costa Rica at 339,495. Net migration to Costa Rica from Nicaragua for 2018 and 2019 added another 33254. Nicaraguans entering Costa Rica undocumented do not enter the country’s migratory statistics. Nicaraguans requesting asylum do. The UNHCR cannot weasel out of its false claim by dodging behind undocumented Nicaraguan migrants.
A recent Costa Rican government report stated that at the end of 2019 around 31500 Nicaraguans were seeking asylum. While some data is available for the number of asylum requests granted to Nicaraguans, just 6 out of 23,063 in 2018, data is incomplete for 2019, although Nicaragua’s anti-government news outlet La Prensa reported 18 asylum requests had been approved as of May 2019. The number of requests denied also seems to be unavailable. So putting together a complete picture to date is difficult.
Even so, on official, publicly available data the UNHCR has no basis, except perhaps false propaganda from the country’s coup promoting opposition, to portray Nicaragua as a country from which tens of thousands of people have fled to Costa Rica to escape violent persecution. Costa Rica’s own migration statistics confirm the reality misrepresented by the UNHCR and bear out the long-standing historical context of economic migration between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Likewise, the Costa Rican government has itself acknowledged that most Nicaraguans claiming asylum do so for economic reasons.
The statistics show that migration from Nicaragua to Costa Rica actually fell during and after the period of the violent failed coup attempt in Nicaragua. Whereas, if opposition claims of mass repression were true, it should have increased. Costa Rica’s data for asylum requests granted also show up the false claims of persecution by opposition activists. During 2018,