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Unveiling the Human Face of Nicaraguan Migration

A Struggle for Integration in Costa Rica, 2019

The surge in Nicaraguan migration to Costa Rica paints a complex picture of the challenges those seeking refuge face. With over 150,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica as of February 2022, the migration flow has become one of Central America's most prominent, surpassing figures from the region's civil wars in the 1980s. Despite Costa Rica's reputation as a welcoming nation, new arrivals, particularly asylum seekers, often grapple with social exclusion, discrimination, and stigma. 


The COVID-19 pandemic has further strained resources and heightened existing tensions, with blame directed at Nicaraguans for allegedly rising contagions. Interviews conducted in San José reveal a nuanced narrative of social isolation, discrimination, and barriers to education and employment. The historic relationship between the two nations has seen tensions flare, with anti-immigrant sentiments on display in a 2018 rally – a surprising turn for a country known as the "Switzerland of the Americas." 


As the migration landscape evolves with an influx of university students and professionals from Nicaragua, the need for comprehensive public policy addressing social cohesion becomes apparent. The story of Nicaraguan migrants in Costa Rica is a tale of displacement and a reflection of the intricate dynamics shaping the integration process. 


Photos: Refugee camp in Upala, Costa Rica, near the Nicaragua border.

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