No detention centre mapping data


Costa Rica Immigration Detention

An important transit and destination country, Costa Rica began systemically applying immigration detention in the 1990s in response to migratory pressures from neighboring Nicaragua. The country currently operates two dedicated detention facilities, which have been criticized by national rights bodies for having inadequate sanitary conditions.

Quick Facts


International migrants (2015): 421,700
New asylum applications (2016): 5,834

Profile Updated: July 2015

Costa Rica Immigration Detention Profile

Costa Rica is a transit country for migrants travelling to the United States and Canada as well as a destination country. In 2013 the migrant population numbered 419,600. This represented 8.6 percent of the country’s total population, the second highest ratio in Latin America, behind Belize (15.3 percent).[1] Approximately 75 percent of non-citizens residing in Costa Rica are from Nicaragua,[2] and the country’s detention practices have historically been linked to the effort to stem Nicaraguan migration.[3]

Based on reports by human rights groups, it appears that detention in Costa Rica began to emerge as a coherent policy apparatus in the late 1990s as large numbers of Nicaraguans began crossing into the country to work as undocumented labourers in farms. According to a 2002 report by the Central American Human Rights Commission (Codehuca), “In June 2000 the General Immigration and Naturalisation Department … processed approximately 155,000 (regularization) requests of which more than 97% were Nicaraguan immigrants. … The large number of immigrants urged the authorities to implement emergency means to control the undocumented immigration, like the incorporation of a hostel for undocumented immigrants in San José in November 1999 and the implementation of temporary retention centres in the northern part of the country. These are meant to facilitate the process of rejection as established in Costa Rican legislation.”[4]

In its 2009 Migration Law (Ley General de Migración y Extranjería N° 8764), Costa Rica formalized provisions concerning deportation and detention. In 2011 the government issued a detailed Migration Control Regulation (Reglamento de Control Migratorio, Decreto Ejecutivo N° 36769), which interprets and clarifies the Migration Law.

Article 5 of the Migration Control Regulation defines administrative immigration detention as a restriction of liberty ordered by the Directorate General of Migration (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería) for a foreigner who has entered or remained in the country in irregular manner. It states that the period of detention shall be necessary to carry out the administrative procedure of expulsion or regularization of the person’s migratory status.

Article 31(5) of the Migration Law provides the legal framework and establishes basic procedures for carrying out “administrative detention.” According to this article, migration police (Policía Profesional de Migración) may detain a migrant for up to 24 hours to verify his or her migratory status. In “special circumstances” this can be extended based on a decision made by the director of the Directorate General of Migration (Migration Law, article 31(5)(a); Migration Control Regulation, article 20). The Migration Law further provides that if the “migratory infraction” (infracción migratoria) is confirmed and less coercive measures are dismissed, the Directorate General of Migration shall order deportation proceedings (Migration Law, article 31(5)(a)). Once the consulate of the migrant’s country of origin identifies the person, immigration detention shall not exceed 30 days during which deportation should be carried out. Yet, this period can be extended in “exceptional circumstances,” when justified by the Directorate General of Migration (Migration Law, article 31(5)(b)). The maximum period of detention is thus not set out in the legislation. According to some reports, detention can last longer than six months.[5]

Pursuant to article 31(7) of the Migration Law anyone subject to migration proceedings is to be informed of the reasons for his apprehension and have the right to consular assistance, access to a legal adviser paid by him, and linguistic assistance. Under article 194 of the Migration Law, detainees have the right to appeal detention orders to the Migration Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal Administrativo Migratorio) within three days following issuance of an order. The tribunal does not automatically review the legality of detention. Thus, if a detainee does not make an appeal, immigration detention is not reviewed.[6]

According to the Migration Law, detention is an exceptional measure to be used only when less coercive measures are deemed inadequate for the particular case (Migration Law, article 31(5)). It is difficult to assess how often less coercive measures are employed because authorities do not provide any detention-related statistics.[7] The Migration Law lists four non-custodial measures: regular reporting to authorities, bail, deposit of documents, and home detention (Migration Law, article 211). According to the Centro Internacional De Derechos Humanos de Personas Migrantes (CIDEHUM), bail and home detention are only very rarely used.[8]

According to the Migration Control Regulation, the migration police may not keep children in custody. Rather, it is the National Child Welfare Agency (Patronato Nacional de la Infancia) who is charged with their care (Migration Control Regulation, article 20).

In 2013, 1,150 people sought asylum in Costa Rica; 1,170 in 2012.[9] Asylum seekers are generally not detained. They are issued a document stating their status, which protects them from immigration detention.[10] If administrative or penal proceedings related to undocumented stay of an asylum seeker are on-going, they are to be suspended until the person’s asylum application is assessed (Refugees Regulation, article 137).

The country operates one dedicated long-term immigration detention facility, the Centro de Aprehensión Temporal para Extranjeros en Condición Irregular (CATECI), located in the Hatillo neighborhood of San José (prior to the adoption of the Migration Law the centre was known as the Centro de Aseguramiento para Extranjeros en Transito).[11] The Directorate General of Migration has a custodial authority over the detainees and it manages the centre, jointly with the migration police. The CATECI has a capacity of 50 and confines on average 20 migrants at a time.[12] Men and women are kept separately.[13]

The Migration Law provides that the detainees must be kept in conditions that ensure their dignity and take into account specificities related to gender, age, and disability (Migration Law, article 31(5)(c)). However, during a visit in 2013, the Ombudsman and the National Preventive Mechanism noted that the centre did not provide adequate separation of different categories of detainees (according to the country of origin or vulnerability), that the infrastructure was old, and that sanitary conditions were inadequate.[14] In 2014, the Directorate General of Migration presented its plans to open a new detention centre to replace the CATECI.[15]

There is also a short-term detention facility at the Juan Santamaria Airport, located outside San José. It confines people who have attempted to enter the country in an irregular way while their status is verified or they have been removal with assistance from airlines.[16]

Before opening the CATECI in August 2006 migrants were detained in 5th police station in San José (known as the “Quinta Comisaría”).[17] According to the 2002 Codehuca report:

“The detention centre is located in the premises of the ‘Quinta Comisaría’ in San José. It has a capacity of 80 persons, according to the Chief of the Immigration Police, Allen Calderón. Occasionally, the detained persons have to sleep on the floor. The centre does not have adequate hygienic conditions; the showers do not have doors and there are only two lavatories. The recreation area is very small, there is no place to eat and there is no direct light. The interior of the centre smells awfully. Families or friends of the detained persons should provide the necessary personal hygienic products. There is no public phone in the centre and the immigrants are not allowed to use the phone in the office to call their families or friends. Staff of the Ministry of Health has visited the detention centre few times, because it was informed of the bad hygienic conditions of the centre. The Ministry of Health was supposed to write a report of recommendations, however, the guards are still waiting for this report, which has not arrived yet. The Ombudsman Human Rights Office noted that occasionally underaged immigrants are detained in the ‘Quinta Comisaría,’ which is a severe violation of the Convention of Child Rights and Costa Rican law.”[18]

 

[1] UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). 2013. International Migration 2013 Wall Chart. http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/migration/migration-wallchart-2013.shtml.

[2] International Organization for Migration (IOM). Website. “Costa Rica: Migration Trends.” http://costarica.iom.int/en/costa_rica/migration_trends_in_the_mission/ (16 June 2015).

[3] Central American Human Rights Commission (CODEHUCA). 2002. “SITUATION OF NICARAGUAN IMMIGRANTS IN COSTA RICA – CERD 2002.” Available at https://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/costarica2002cerd.pdf.

[4] Central American Human Rights Commission (CODEHUCA). 2002. “SITUATION OF NICARAGUAN IMMIGRANTS IN COSTA RICA – CERD 2002.” Available at https://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/costarica2002cerd.pdf.

[5] International Detention Coalition (IDC). 2014. INFORME REGIONAL DETENCIÓN MIGRATORIA Y ALTERNATIVAS A LA DETENCIÓN EN LAS AMÉRICAS. October 2014.

[6] Richard, Gabriela (Centro Internacional de Derechos Humanos de Personas Migrantes CIDEHUM). 2014. Global Detention Project Questionnaire: Costa Rica. 29 September 2014.

[7] Richard, Gabriela (Centro Internacional de Derechos Humanos de Personas Migrantes CIDEHUM). 2014. Global Detention Project Questionnaire: Costa Rica. 29 September 2014.

[8] Richard, Gabriela (Centro Internacional de Derechos Humanos de Personas Migrantes CIDEHUM). 2014. Global Detention Project Questionnaire: Costa Rica. 29 September 2014.

[9] UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR Statistical Yearbook 2013. 2014. www.unhcr.org/54cf9bd69.html. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR Statistical Yearbook 2012. 2013. http://www.unhcr.org/52a7213b9.html.

[10] Richard, Gabriela (Centro Internacional de Derechos Humanos de Personas Migrantes CIDEHUM). 2014. Global Detention Project Questionnaire: Costa Rica. 29 September 2014.

[11] Guerrero Segura, Efraín (UHCR Costa Rica). 2015. Email correspondence with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project). June 2015.

[12] Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. 2014. Proyecto: Creación del Nuevo CATECI. Guerrero Segura, Efraín (UHCR Costa Rica). 2015. Email correspondence with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project). June 2015.

[13] Richard, Gabriela (Centro Internacional de Derechos Humanos de Personas Migrantes CIDEHUM). 2014. Global Detention Project Questionnaire: Costa Rica. 29 September 2014.

[14] Mecanismo Nacional de Prevención de la Tortura and Defensoría de los Habitantes de la República. 2014. Informe Anual de Labores 2013. http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/OPCAT/NPM/CostaRica2013.pdf.

[15] Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. 2014. Proyecto: Creación del Nuevo CATECI.

[16] Richard, Gabriela (Centro Internacional de Derechos Humanos de Personas Migrantes CIDEHUM). 2015. Email correspondence with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project). June 2015.

[17] ACNUR/Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. 2007. DONACION DE ACNUR MEJORARÁ CONDICIONES DE EXTRANJEROS DETENIDOS EN CENTRO DE APREHENCION EN HATILLO. Comunicado de Prensa Conjunto. 29 May 2007.

[18] Central American Human Rights Commission (CODEHUCA). 2002. “SITUATION OF NICARAGUAN IMMIGRANTS IN COSTA RICA – CERD 2002.” Available at https://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/costarica2002cerd.pdf.

Centres List

No detention centres data available

Statistics Expand all



1

Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres

2014

  • Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
12014


50

Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres

2014

  • Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
502014


0

Number of dedicated medium-term immigration detention centres

2014

  • Number of dedicated medium-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
02014


0

Number of immigration offices

2014

  • Number of immigration offices
NumberObservation Date
02014


1

Number of transit facilities

2015

  • Number of transit facilities
NumberObservation Date
12015


0

Number of criminal facilities

2014

  • Number of criminal facilities
NumberObservation Date
02014


0

Number of ad hoc facilities

2014

  • Number of ad hoc facilities
NumberObservation Date
02014


17,440

Criminal prison population

2014

  • Criminal prison population
NumberObservation Date
17,4402014
14,9632012
12,1102010
9,2112007
8,8902004
7,6492001
6,0041998
3,4901995
3,4431992


14.6

Percentage of foreign prisoners

2013

  • Percentage of foreign prisoners
PercentageObservation Date
14.62013
14.22006


352

Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)

2014

  • Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
NumberObservation Date
3522014
3142012
2592010
2072007
2092004
1912001
1601998
1001995
1071992



4,808,000

Population

2015

  • Population
NumberObservation Date
4,808,0002015
4,800,0002012


421,700

International migrants

2015

  • International migrants
NumberObservation Date
421,7002015
419,6002013


8.8

International migrants as a percentage of the population

2015

  • International migrants as a percentage of the population
PercentageObservation Date
8.82015
8.62013


4,152

Refugees

2016

  • Refugees
NumberObservation Date
4,1522016
3,6162015
20,7442014


4.36

Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants

2014

  • Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
NumberObservation Date
4.362014
4.382012


5,834

Total number of new asylum applications

2016

  • Total number of new asylum applications
NumberObservation Date
5,8342016
1,3732014
1,1702012


15.1

Refugee recognition rate

2014

  • Refugee recognition rate
NumberObservation Date
15.12014


127

Stateless persons

2016

  • Stateless persons
NumberObservation Date
1272016
2,6132015
02014

Domestic Law Expand all

Legal tradition Show sources
NameObservation Date
Civil law

Constitutional guarantees? Show sources
NameConstitution and ArticlesYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
YesPolitical Constitution of the Republic of Costa Rica, article 3719491949
Core pieces of national legislation Show sources
NameYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
Ley General de Migración y Extranjería N° 87642009
Regulations, standards, guidelines Show sources
NameYear Published
Reglamento de Control Migratorio (Decreto Ejecutivo N° 36769)2011
Manual Administrativo y de procedimientos de los centros de Aprehensión temporal para extranjeros en condiciones irregulares2008

Immigration-status-related grounds Show sources
NameObservation Date
Detention for unauthorised entry or stay2015
Detention to effect removal2015

Maximum length for administrative immigration detention in law. Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
No Limit2014
Maximum length of time in custody prior to issuance of a detention order Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
12014

Provision of basic procedural standards Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Right to appeal the lawfulness of detentionYes2015
Information to detaineesYes2015
Access to consular assistanceYesYes2015
Right to legal counselYes2015
Access to free interpretation servicesYesYes2015
Access to asylum proceduresYes2015
Compensation for unlawful detentionNo2014
Independent review of detentionNoNo2014

Types of non-custodial measures Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Supervised release and/or reportingYesinfrequently2015
Registration (deposit of documents)Yesinfrequently2015
Release on bailYesNo2014
Home detention (curfew)YesNo2014

Is the detention of vulnerable persons provided in law? Are they detained in practice? Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Accompanied minorsProhibited2015
Unaccompanied minorsProhibitedNo2015
Asylum seekersNo2014
Stateless personsNot mentioned2014
Pregnant womenNot mentioned2014
ElderlyNot mentioned2014
Persons with disabilitiesNot mentioned2014
Victims of traffickingNot mentioned2014
RefugeesNo2014

International Law Expand all

International treaties Show sources
NameRatification Year
ICPED, International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance2012
CRPD, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2008
OPCAT, Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment2005
CTOCTP, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children2003
CTOCSP, Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime2003
CAT, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment1993
CRC, Convention on the Rights of the Child1990
CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women1986
CRSR, Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees1978
PCRSR, Protocol to the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees1978
CRSSP, Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons1977
ICCPR, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights1968
ICESCR, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights1968
ICERD, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination1967
VCCR, Vienna Convention on Consular Relations1966
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
  15/16
Individual complaints procedure Show sources
NameAcceptance Year
CRPD, Optional Protocol to o the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities2015
ICESCR, Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 20082014
CRC, [Third] Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child establishing a communications procedure, 20112014
CAT, declaration under article 22 of the Convention2002
CEDAW, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 19992001
ICERD, declaration under article 14 of the Convention1974
ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 19661968
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted Show sources
NumberObservation Date
7/8
7/8
Relevant recommendations issued by treaty bodies Show sources
NameRecommendation ExcerptRecommendation Year
Human Rights Committee30. The State party should step up efforts to improve living conditions at migrant detention centres, including with regard to appropriate sanitation and health services, with a view to fully complying with the provisions of article 10. The State should guarantee that migrants are held in administrative detention only when justified as a reasonable, necessary and proportionate measure, guaranteeing as well that such detention is used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest time possible.2016
Committee against Torture§10 The State party should ensure that legislation provides for alternatives to custody for migrants. The State party should also set a maximum legal period for detention pending deportation, which should in no circumstances be indefinite. The Committee invites the State party to continue its efforts to improve detention conditions for all immigrants, in cases where administrative detention is absolutely necessary, in accordance with the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment and the Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The Committee recommends the adoption of protocols and the provision of proper training for border officials and personnel working in centres for the administrative detention of aliens for the identification of victims of trafficking and others who are entitled to international protection. 2008
Human Rights Committee§9 The State party should take steps to end overcrowding in detention centres, including those administered by the migration authorities, and to ensure compliance with the requirements of article 10. In particular, the State party should take into consideration the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. 2007

Regional legal instruments Show sources
NameYear of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
ACHR, American Convention on Human Rights1970
IACPPT, Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture1999
APACHR, Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights1999
CBDP, Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belem do Para)1995
IACFDP, Inter-American convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons1996

Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review Show sources
Recomendation IssuedYear IssuedObservation Date
Yes20102017
Yes2014

Institutions Expand all

Federal or centralized governing system Show sources
Federal or centralized governing systemObservation Date
Centralized system2015
Centralized or decentralized immigration authority
Centralized or decentralized immigration authorityObservation Date
Centralized immigration authority2015

Custodial authority Show sources
AgencyMinistryMinistry TypologyObservation Date
Direccion General de Migracion y ExtranjeriaMinisterio de Gobernacion y PoliciaInterior or Home Affairs2015
Direccion General de Migracion y ExtranjeriaMinisterio de Gobernacion y PoliciaInterior or Home Affairs2014
Direccion General de Migracion y ExtranjeriaMinisterio de GobernacionInterior or Home Affairs2007
Apprehending authorities Show sources
NameAgencyMinistryObservation Date
Policía Profesional de Migración2015
Detention Facility Management Show sources
Entity NameEntity TypeObservation Date
Policía de migraciónGovernmental2015
Private companyPrivate For-Profit2015
Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería and Policía Profesional de MigracionGovernmental2014
Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería and Policía ProfesionalGovernmental2014
Direccion General de Migracion y Extrajeria/Policia de Migracion y ExtranjeriaGovernmental2007
Direccion General de Migracion y ExtrajeriaGovernmental2007
Formally designated detention estate? Show sources
Formally designated immigration detention estate?Types of officially designated detention centresObservation Date
YesDedicated immigration detention facilities2015
Types of detention facilities used in practice Show sources
Immigration detention centre (Administrative)Immigration field office (Administrative)Transit centre (Administrative)Reception centre (Administrative)Offshore detention centre (Administrative)Hospital (Administrative)Border guard (Administrative)Police station (Criminal)National penitentiary (Criminal)Local prison (Criminal)Juvenile detention centre (Criminal)Informal camp (Ad hoc)Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)Surge facility (Ad hoc)Observation Date
YesYes2015

Authorized monitoring institutions Show sources
InstitutionInstitution TypeObservation Date
Asociación de Consultores y Asesores Internacionales (ACAI)Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO)2014
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)International or Regional Bodies (IRBs)2014
Defensoría de los Habitantes de Costa Rica (Ombudsman)National Human Rights Institution (or Ombudsperson) (NHRI)2014
Mecanismo Nacional de Prevención contra la TorturaOPCAT National Preventive Mechanism (NPM)2014
Do NGOs carry out visits? Show sources
Do NGOs regularly carry our visits?Observation Date
Yes2014
Do international and/or regional bodies (IRBs) visit immigration-related detention facilities? Show sources
Do international and/or regional bodies (IRB) regularly visit immigration-related detention facilities?Observation Date
Yes2014

Socio Economic Data Expand all

Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD) Show sources
Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)Observation Date
10,4152014
10,1852013
Remittances to the country Show sources
Remittances to the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
6112015
5852011
Remittances from the country Show sources
Remittances from the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
2712010
Unemployment Rate Show sources
Unemployment RateObservation Date
8.32014
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in millions USD) Show sources
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in USD)Observation Date
53.52014
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP) Show sources
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)UNDP four-tiered rankingObservation Date
69High2015
68High2014

Country Links


Additional Resources


Submission to the Human Rights Committee: Costa Rica

Immigration Detention in Costa Rica

An important transit and destination country, Costa Rica began systemically applying immigration detention in the 1990s in response to migratory pressures from neighboring Nicaragua. The country currently operates two dedicated detention facilities, which have been criticized by national rights bodies for having inadequate sanitary conditions.

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