Responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, Costa Rica’s immigration authority (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería) reported that during the Covid-19 crisis, immigration police (Dirección de la Policía Profesional de Migración) put in place distinct measures for non-citizens apprehended for administrative reasons. Instead of extending detention measures during the pandemic, non-citizens were required to periodically report to police stations. Costa Rica’s immigration authority reported that the immigration police orders the administrative apprehension of a non-citizens in cases where their record demonstrates a risk for security and public order, in accordance with the Law on Migration and Aliens N°8764 (Ley General de Migración y Extranjería número 8764), or if it considers that the person will seek to evade a deportation order.
After the declaration of the state of emergency on 16 March, the immigration authority issued various protocols and guidelines endorsed by the Ministry of Health for the prevention and care of Covid-19 cases, adapting spaces for isolation and training police personnel. Also, protocols seeking to prevent outbreaks of the disease were implemented, including the use of hygiene products such as disinfectants, soap, deep cleaning, and taking non-citizens’ temperature systematically. The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería also reported that the immigration detention centre in San José, Centro de Aprehensión Regional Central de la Policía Profesional de Migración, where non-citizens who have committed administrative offences or those that are to be deported are held, was staffed with healthcare professionals and if persons had any Covid-19 symptoms, they were transferred to the closest health centre.
Regarding deportations, the immigration authority indicated that these were still being conducted despite the pandemic, albeit only by land and consequently, only to Nicaragua and Panama, where authorities continued receiving their nationals. Deportations to other countries have been temporarily suspended while arrangements are being made through diplomatic channels with other countries’ authorities such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Colombia.
Moreover, while the immigration authority’s offices were temporarily closed from 17 March to 17 May 2020, and closure has since been extended, non-citizens that arrive in Costa Rica may nonetheless apply for asylum at a border post. As soon as the person states that they wish to apply for international protection, staff from the Refuge Unit are dispatched to the relevant border post to carry out the process. The applicant then undergoes the same process as any other would, but in an expedited manner. Through an agreement with UNHCR, the applicant is accommodated in a hotel in the area, while the procedure for determining refugee status is carried out.
- Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (Ministerio de Gobernación y Policía), Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, 24 July 2020.
- Unidad de Refugio, Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (Ministerio de Gobernación y Policía), Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, 21 July 2020.
- Global Detention Project, Immigration Detention in Costa Rica, July 2015, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/americas/costa-rica
- Centro de Aprehensión Temporal para Extranjeros en Condición Irregular, in San José, (“Centro de Aprehensión Temporal para Extranjeros en Condición Irregular (CATECI) (previously Centro de Aseguramiento para Extranjeros en Transito),” Global Detention Project, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/americas/costa-rica/detention-centres/120/centro-de-aprehension-temporal-para-extranjeros-en-condicion-irregular-cateci-previously-centro-de-aseguramiento-para-extranjeros-en-transito)