Costa Rica: Refugee/asylum determination system in place, and whether Cubans were refused the opportunity to make a claim for refugee status, 1995-1997
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||1 April 1999|
|Citation / Document Symbol||CRI31671.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Costa Rica: Refugee/asylum determination system in place, and whether Cubans were refused the opportunity to make a claim for refugee status, 1995-1997, 1 April 1999, CRI31671.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ac9210.html [accessed 5 March 2015]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Costa Rica has two different procedures for granting protection to foreigners: one for political asylum (asilo político), and one for refugee status (status de refugiado). The Juridical Directorate (Dirección Jurídica) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs handles asylum requests (solicitudes or pedidos de asilo), while the Department of Refugees (Departamento de Refugiados) of the General Directorate of Migration and Foreigner Affairs (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería) of the Ministry of Public Security handles claims for refugee status (solicitud de refugio or de refugiado). Both asilados and refugiados receive a temporary resident status (Reglamento de la Ley General de Migración y Extranjería 1999).
The Dirección Jurídica of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Relaciones Exteriores) of Costa Rica, the government branch responsible for receiving and handling political asylum requests, provided the information that follows during a 27 April 1999 telephone interview.
A request for political asylum is presented in person before the Dirección Jurídica. No specific forms or formalities are required with the request, except a written or verbal explanation of the reasons why the person thinks he or she should receive political asylum. The request is studied by the Dirección; when a decision is reached, and after approval by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a ministerial resolution (resolución ministerial) granting or denying the asylum is issued. The resolution is signed by the Minister and the President of Costa Rica.
The information that follows was provided during a 28 April 1999 telephone interview with assistants to the Director General of Migration and Foreigner Affairs.
The Department of Refugees receives requests for refugee status, after the person has arrived in Costa Rica. Persons requesting refugee status usually approach the UNHCR first, which in turn refers the case to the Department of Refugees; however, some persons prefer to make their initial request directly to the Department. The persons(s) making the request is interviewed by staff of the Department, who assess whether the person fits any of the Geneva Convention categories under which a person could be considered a refugee, based on the narrative presented by the person(s). After the interview, a resolution granting or denying refugee status is issued. The resolution is signed by the Director General of Migration and Foreigner Affairs. If refugee status is denied, the person(s) can appeal the decision before the Minister of Public Security.
The difference between political asylum cases and requests for refugee status is sometimes subtle; generally, persons requesting political asylum have a higher profile and/or base their request on purely political grounds. There is and has been no restriction or rejection of requests for refugee status; every request has to be received and reviewed, and every case is judged on its individual merits. Regarding the specific case of Cubans, this national group has constituted the most steadily increasing source of requests for refugee status in recent years in Costa Rica.
The Consulate of Costa Rica in Montreal stated during a 26 April 1999 telephone interview that there is no information on restrictions on Cuban refugee claimants in Costa Rica from 1995 to 1997. The consulate stated that claims for refugee status in Costa Rica are reviewed on an individual, case-by-case basis, and denial of refugee status would have depended on the individual case, not the nationality of the claimant (ibid.).
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Costa Rica stated during a 27 April 1999 telephone interview that there was no information indicating that restrictions on Cubans claiming refugee status in Costa Rica were in place from 1995 to 1997. Rather, the source stated that since 1994 Cubans are the most constant group to claim refugee status in Costa Rica3/4albeit not the most numerous3/4and make up a generally well-organized community of approximately 700 in the country. Some Cubans who arrived in Costa Rica with a temporary residence visa have decided, as a personal choice, to request refugee status soon after their arrival, although there is no need to do so if they are legally entitled to reside in Costa Rica by virtue of an existing visa. Since 1998, after fraud involving Cuban and Costa Rican migration officials in Cuba was exposed, regulations for the issuing of residence visas have been amended and a closer scrutiny of applications by Costa Rica is taking place, however these measures have not been targeted at Cubans or any other national group in particular, and have not affected persons who make or have made requests for refugee status.
The UNHCR staff added that all persons with refugee status in Costa Rica receive a special refugee identity card (carnet or carné de refugiado), which is different from the Cédula de Residencia issued to temporary and permanent foreign residents. The carné de refugiado bears the seal of the "Dirección General de Migración3/4Departamento de Refugiados" (ibid.). A person who has a Cédula de Residencia cannot have at the same time refugee status and a refugee identity card (ibid.). A special travel document can be issued to refugees under the authority of the Geneva Convention; the document has a blue cover with two black stripes (ibid.).
Additional information on status of refugees in Costa Rica can be found in CRI10342 of 14 April 1992.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below a list of additional sources consulted in researching this information request.
Consulate of Costa Rica, Montreal. 26 April 1999. Telephone interview with consular officer.
Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, San José. 28 April 1999. Telephone interview with assistants to the Director General.
Dirección Jurídica, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, San José. 27 April 1999. Telephone interview with assistants to the Director.
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, San José. 22 February 1999. Reglamento de la Ley General de Migración y Extranjería. 31 May 1989, with amendments made on 18 April 1995 and published on 29 May 1995. [Internet]
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, San José. 27 April 1999. Telephone interview with staff.
Additional Sources Consulted
La Nación Online [San José].
World Refugee Survey. 1994-1998.
Electronic Sources: IRB Databases, REFWORLD, Internet, WNC.
This list is not exhaustive. It does not include country and subject-specific publications available in the Resource Centre.