The Covid-19 crisis has had an important impact on Nicaragua, in particular on people seeking to leave the country, whose numbers have grown considerably in recent years. In early March 2020, a UNHCR spokesperson said that “serious political and social crises in the country have prompted Nicaraguan students, human rights defenders, journalists and farmers to flee their country at an average rate of 4,000 people every month.” Since the initial violent clampdown following popular protests in 2018, most Nicaraguans have fled to Costa Rica, which as of March was hosting 77,000 refugees and asylum seekers. More than 8,000 people have fled to Panama and 9,000 to Europe. The UN estimates that there are around 103,600 Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers worldwide.
On 16 April, news reports indicated that Costa Rica had reinforced its border with Nicaragua and rejected 5,000 undocumented migrants in a month. According to the Nicaraguan immigration authority (Dirección de Migración), since Costa Rica closed its borders, there have been 5,300 people have been refused entry into the country, monstly undocumented Nicaraguan citizens. The Costa Rican immigration authority (Dirección de Migración y Extranjería) reported that 700 Nicaraguan citizens have given up their asylum claim in Costa Rica due to the deterioration of their economic conditions and have now returned to Nicaragua.
In addition, on 22 April, news reports stated that groups of Nicaraguan nationals were being prevented from entering the country at its borders with El Salvador. During the weekend of 18-19 April, a plane carrying 160 Nicaraguan nationals to Managua was prohibited from entering the country. In response, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged Latin American countries to open their borders to their own nationals, stating that “under international law, everyone has the right to return to their country of origin, even during a pandemic.”
As regards the country’s prisons, on 12 June the organisation “Victimas de Abril” denounced the inhumane conditions of imprisonment of 86 political prisoners, of whom 45 have shown Covid-19 symptoms. Detainees have reported that within the Jorge Navarro prison, they have only received one medical visit in 10 weeks and are only provided with two buckets of water a day. Access to hygienic products is limited and visits have not yet been suspended. One wing of the prison has been dedicated to prisoners showing symptoms of the disease, yet, certain prisoners have developed symptoms while cleaning the facility.
- UN News, “Nicaragua: After Two Years of Crisis, More than 100,000 have Fled the Country,” 10 March 2020, https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059051
- Confidencial, “Costa Rica Refuerza su Frontera con Nicaragua ante Covid-19,” 16 April 2020, https://confidencial.com.ni/costa-rica-refuerza-su-frontera-con-nicaragua-ante-covid-19/
- A. Cruz, “Nicas Exiliados en Costa Rica Lanzan S.O.S. ante Pandemia del Covid-19,” La Prensa, 10 April 2020, https://www.laprensa.com.ni/2020/04/10/nacionales/2661392-nicas-exiliados-en-costa-rica-lanzan-s-o-s-ante-pandemia-del-covid-19
- SEE ALSO: Global Detention Project, “Immigration Detention in Nicaragua,” https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/americas/nicaragua
- W. M. Aburto, “Cientos de Nicaragüenses No Han Podido Regresar a su Pais Pese a su Politica de ‘Puertas Abiertas’,” AA, 22 April 2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/es/mundo/cientos-de-nicaraguenses-no-han-podido-regresar-a-su-pa%C3%ADs-pese-a-su-pol%C3%ADtica-de-puertas-abiertas-/1815014
- I. Manguia, “Relator de la CIDH: ‘Cárceles son Bomba de Tiempo Ante la Covid-19,” Confidencial, 12 June 2020, https://confidencial.com.ni/relator-de-la-cidh-carceles-son-bomba-de-tiempo-ante-la-covid-19/
- A. Cruz, “Reos Relatan Cómo Se Vive la Pandemia en las Cárceles Nicaragüenses,” La Prensa, 7 June 2020, https://www.laprensa.com.ni/2020/06/07/suplemento/la-prensa-domingo/2682330-reos-relatan-como-se-vive-la-pandemia-en-las-carceles-nicaraguenses
- Persecuted Nicaraguan Woman in a Shelter in Costa Rica, (Daniel Dreifuss, UNHCR, “Nicaragua: After two years of crisis, more than 100,000 have fled the country,” UN News, 10 March 2020, https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059051)