MINARE is Costa Rica’s application of the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS for its acronym in Spanish), and reaffirms the country’s long and unwavering tradition of providing asylum and protection to refugees. MINARE offers a comprehensive response to the situation of refugees in Costa Rica and is a model for the protection and integration of urban refugees that is in accord with international law and best practice. It contains sustained measures to continue reinforcing and improve Costa Rica’s asylum system and enhance the nation’s capacity to ease access to durable solutions through economic and social integration.
Costa Rica has a longstanding tradition of respect to Human Rights and welcoming refugees. Costa Rica is host to refugees and asylum seekers from the 3 major regional situations i.e. Venezuela, NCA, Colombia and most recently, Nicaragua. Since 2014, the total number of new asylum claims per year has almost doubled when compared with previous year, 2015 (59%), 2016 (103%), 2017 (42%). This increasing trend is confirmed during the first 4 months of 2018. Followed by Nicaragua´s socio-political crisis in April 2018, Costa Rica received a significant number of asylum claims (over 25.000 in four months). In spite of the ever increasing number of new asylum claims and the challenges faced by the country on security, unemployment, xenophobia and fiscal matters; Costa Rica has kept open borders, giving access to territory and RSD procedures.
MINARE was developed in a consultative process at the national level with a range of different stakeholders. To that effect, the Vice-President of the Republic established an Executive Committee with high rank officials that actively participate in the protection and integration of refugees in Costa Rica; i.e. the Ministers or vice ministers of Foreign Affairs, of Interior, of Labour and Social Security, of Human Development and Social Inclusion, of National Planning and Economic Policy. This work team was called MINARE Technical Team. The national consultation process included several rounds of thematic discussions of the Technical Team to identify protection gaps and to provide practical solutions and recommendations that were later presented on two national consultation workshops. Such workshops took place in July and August 2017 with participation of 42 relevant institutions and over 100 experts, which resulted in a document with 64 agreements based on concrete actions.
Even though, this process was initiated during the previous administration, Costa Rica´s current Administration has adopted the same coordination structure for MINARE.
Since the adoption of MINARE and in attention to the sudden increase in the number of asylum claims from Nicaragua, the Migration Authority, with the support of UNHCR, has increased its capacity through more adjudicators and new premises. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between UNHCR and National Welfare Institute (IMAS) to include asylum-seekers and refugees in the national poverty reduction programmes, using the same eligibility criteria as nationals. In order to enhance local integration, UNHCR developed the “Living Integration” programme in coordination with the Ministry of Labour, civil society and the private sector. This initiative seeks to promote refugees’ access to the labour market and livelihood opportunities. Living Integration is a corporate social responsibility scheme that encourages training, mentoring and job opportunity plans for refugees. In addition, the Ministry of Labour has also granted access to asylum-seekers and refugees with valid work permits to all job placement programmes and actively promotes public-private partnerships. Further agreements were signed by the National Council of Rectors to validate university diplomas obtained in countries of origin to ensure refugees’ degrees are recognized. Also, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Interior, UNHCR and Costa Rica´s Bar Associations enables Social Legal Clinics to provide free legal assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers.
The following actions are currently prioritized:
As Costa Rica begins to deliver on its, MINARE serves as a coordination platform that includes stakeholders from its Government, private sector, academia, United Nations and civil society. MINARE includes political stakeholders such as the ministers or vice ministers of Foreign Affairs, Labour, Interior, National Planning and Human Development and Social Inclusion, all under the leadership of Costa Rica´s Vice-President. Other key government actors include the Migration Authority, National Women´s Institute, National Children’s Institute, and the National Welfare Institute (IMAS). Private sector is represented through the Chambers of Commerce and of Industry and Diverse Chamber of Commerce. Civil society participants include national ONGs such as CENDEROS, who provides safe spaces and psychological attention to survivors of sexual and gender based violence and Fundación Mujer which focuses on livelihoods opportunities for asylum-seekers and refugees. International NGOs such HIAS and RET Int. provide legal assistance and humanitarian aid, particularly to new arrivals. The United Nations Resident Coordinator as well as other UN agencies actively participate in MINARE. UNHCR serves as technical secretariat of the whole process. At the regional level, UNDP and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have agreed to provide or allocate support to cost MIRPS national action plans. OAS, mandated to develop a follow-up mechanism for the implementation of MIRPS, is called to carry out annual progress meetings.
Costa Rica currently hosts the highest number of asylum-seekers and refugees ever recorded in more than 30 years. The full implementation of MINARE will allow a comprehensive response to refugees and asylum-seekers that will also benefit the local communities that host them. The next two years will be key in this task as Costa Rica faces new challenges on employment, security and fiscal matters. For the second year of MINARE´s implementation, Costa Rica’s priorities necessarily include: enhancing the response capacity of public institutions to provide direct attention to refugees and asylum-seekers, particularly the Refugee Unit, the Ministry of Human Development and the Ministry of Labour. These institutions must adjust their response capacity to the new caseload. Furthermore, ensure interventions in support to host communities, both in rural and urban settings as they often are refugees and asylum seekers´ first network of support. These priorities can only be achieved with the involvement of the international community in line with the principle of shared responsibility.
In the coming months MINARE will work towards finalizing and implementing the monitoring tool agreed with OAS and present Costa Rica´s First Annual Monitor Report. The Ministry of National Planning is working on a methodology to quantify national investment in the response to refugees as a tool for better decision making as well as a fundraising.
Contact person in UNHCR Costa Rica
Irving Pérez, firstname.lastname@example.org
Diana Diaz Rodriguez, email@example.com
Hugues Van Brabandt, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elisabet Diaz Sanmartin, DIAZSANM@unhcr.org
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