Soaring number of Nicaraguans seek refuge in Costa Rica amid domestic crackdown


  • World
  • Wednesday, 11 Aug 2021

FILE PHOTO: Nicaraguans exiled in Costa Rica take part in a march named "Nicaragua no estas sola" (Nicaragua you're not alone), against the Government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the upcoming November 7 general elections, in San Jose, Costa Rica July 18, 2021. REUTERS/Mayela Lopez

San Jose (Reuters) - Costa Rica received the highest number of refugee applications from Nicaraguans in July since the 2018 protests in Nicaragua, according to Costa Rican government data, following a wave of arrests against opponents of President Daniel Ortega in June.

There were 5,379 refugee requests by Nicaraguans submitted in July, Costa Rica's migration agency told Reuters, triple the May figure.

The spike came as the Nicaraguan government arrested some 30 activists and political opponents, including potential candidates in the November presidential election.

The July figures also top the requests made in the same month of 2018, when thousands of Nicaraguans fled to the neighboring Central American nation amid a crackdown on protests that began in April of that year and left more than 300 dead.

"We are amazed at the number of people who have arrived, most of them activists or people from civil society organizations," said Claudia Vargas, coordinator of the Nicaraguan community for the Arias Foundation in San Jose and herself a refugee.

Vargas said most of her compatriots entered Costa Rica through informal points along 300 kilometers of the shared border, avoiding official crossing points for fear of being detained by the Nicaraguan military.

Since 2018, some 80,000 Nicaraguans have fled to Costa Rica.

Ortega, who has been in power for the second time since 2007 and is seeking re-election in November, has been facing increasing international pressure for the crackdown on political opponents and allegations of human rights violations.

He accuses his critics of conspiring to intervene in his country's affairs.

(Reporting by Alvaro Murillo in San Jose; writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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