Costa Rica


Operation: Opération: Costa Rica



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Key Figures

2019 planning figures
5,000 people of concern receiving legal assistance
3,510 people of concern registered on an individual basis with minimum set of data required
3,500 people of concern receiving humanitarian aid through different partners
1,900 people of concern receiving training for livelihood purposes  
1,250 people of concern provided with guidance on labour market opportunities
50% capacity support provided to Government status determination staff who will determine over 15,000 asylum claims 
100 reported SGBV incidents for which survivors are provided with a safe space
2017 year-end results
1,380 newly arrived asylum-seekers were provided with legal assistance 
1,110 families (2,310 people) received cash-based assistance  
1,040 people of concern were assisted with late birth registration procedures 
170 people of concern were provided with psychological individual assistance, of whom 55 were SGBV survivor women
130 people of concern from the NCA with heightened protection risks benefited from the Protection Transfer Arrangement (PTA), an humanitarian evacuation programme 

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2017 12,015
2016 7,953
2015 8,705


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Costa Rica

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  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019

Year-end Overview

Plan Overview

Operational Environment

Costa Rica has increasingly become a major asylum destination and transit country for the main refugee situations and people in mixed movements in the Americas. Costa Rica is destination for refugees from Venezuela, the North of Central America, Colombia and most recently Nicaragua. It has also served as transit for Cubans, Haitians, African and Asian nationals going northwards. These growing trends are expected to continue in 2019 and beyond. 
As a multi-year multi-partner (MYMP) strategy and CRRF roll-out country, Costa Rica has played a leading strategic role in establishing a protection and integration space to respond to the regional refugee situations. Costa Rica has progressively reviewed its legal and policy framework on refugee protection to modify the the refugee status determination (RSD) system, include the principle of non-refoulement, safeguards on unlawful entry, and age, gender and diversity (AGD) approaches, as well as to provide asylum-seekers with the right to work after the third month of their asylum claim date.  Protocols have been put in place to ensure protection of unaccompanied and separated children as well as survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, trafficking, and smuggling. Costa Rica’s Administrative Migration Tribunal offers asylum-seekers a second instance on appeal for rejected asylum claims.
Refugees and asylum-seekers in Costa Rica are of mixed socio-economic backgrounds, many of whom have special protection needs that require tailored local integration and assistance interventions.
The country’s legal framework allows asylum-seekers and refugees to access basic needs and services on equal footing as nationals, i.e. national welfare programmes that benefit vulnerable populations living in extreme poverty, access to public education, scholarships and job placement. Despite favorable legal and policy frameworks, Costa Rica continues to face economic challenges and undergoing fiscal reform. This situation could affect the capacity of the government to maintain a sustained response. International cooperation is of paramount importance. 

Key Priorities

In 2019 UNHCR will focus on:
  • Maintaining Field Office in Upala in line with UNHCR´s protection by presence strategy to ensure admission to the territory, prevention from refoulement, effective access to RSD procedures and documentation. 
  • Providing capacity building support to the Migration Authority and the Administrative Migration Tribunal with the deployment of additional adjudicators, administrative staffing, and the leasing of new premises in San Jose. 
  • Strengthening the National Social Welfare Institute (IMAS)’s capacity to ensure eligible humanitarian assistance for people of concern. 
  • Strengthening cash-based interventions to complement other forms of humanitarian assistance to newly arrived eligible asylum-seekers.
  • Strengthening livelihood activities nationwide, including vocational training and job placement activities for Nicaraguans.