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R4V Situation Report: Central America & Mexico (August 2021)

Costa Rica
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The Directors of the Migration Authority of Costa Rica and Panama met on 16 August with Colombian authorities and R4V partners, to discuss the migration flows coming by land through these countries, mostly of Venezuelans, Cubans and Haitians. The discussion was focussed on the need to coordinate an approach with United Nations agencies. The authorities emphasized their lack of resources to manage these flows and stated their position not to allow the passage of refugees and migrants traveling by land through the national territory, due to the logistical complications that this entails and the current pandemic situation. Through its baseline for monitoring irregular migratory flows in Costa Rica, the Migration Directorate estimates that 1,272 Venezuelans entered Costa Rica in transit between May and June. Due to the increased flows of Haitians, Cubans, and Venezuelans, the Migration Police stated that they had been carrying out “rejections” at the southern border, referring to the practice of detaining and deporting Venezuelans and other foreigners entering irregularly, largely without facilitating access to asylum procedures.

Meanwhile, R4V partners in Costa Rica implemented a High Frequency Survey (HFS) in a self-administered form accessible online, disseminated through social networks and groups of Venezuelans. The HFS assesses needs in order to [add in purpose of survey]. Venezuelans could complete the HFS through an online link, available from July 28 to August 23, accessible to all regardless of immigration status. A total sample of 298 people completed the survey. After data cleaning, a total sample of 241 was recorded.

The Refugee Unit of the Migration Directorate started a campaign to speed up processes related to asylum applications, renewal of asylum-seeker documentation, and issuance of work permits. Efforts were made to maximize the number of appointments, expedite wait periods and ensure the needs of asylum-seekers are met during their refugee status determination (RSD) processes.


In August, the Migration Service registered 466 Venezuelan nationals in transit through Panama, who entered through the Darien Gap with Colombia. This is an increase of 89% from July (when 246 Venezuelans entered via this route). Regarding this change in population movements, prior to this year, transit of Venezuelans through Panama was not very common, and totaled ~20 people in 2020. Those cases recorded were usually people whose interest was to stay in Panama and who did not have the resources to travel to this country by other means. As of 2021 and coinciding with some changes in migration policies in the United States, an increase in the flow of Venezuelan refugees and migrants with the intention of continuing their transit to the north, especially to the United States, began to be registered. Since this population is not part of the controlled flow agreement between Panama and Costa Rica, initially the Venezuelan population that entered through the Darien was detained at the Migratory Reception Stations; however, as of June of this year, they were allowed to continue their transit. Interviews by R4V partners have identified that much of this population does not come directly from Venezuela, but rather, are secondary movements, having resided previously in Ecuador, Colombia and more recently there has been an increase in people residing previously in Peru). Most are young people, either traveling alone or with a partner (who in some cases is a national of the country in which they previously resided).

Based on an independent assessment by [add name of authors and/or hyperlink to document] shared with the Government, unemployment in Panama will remain above 20% this year and in the first months of 2022. According to the assessment, to decrease unemployment, large construction projects should be prioritized for activating direct and indirect jobs. According to national media, economists and lawyers, informal work continues to gain ground exponentially in the country. The collapse of formal employment has raised informality to 53%. This trend also appears to have affected refugees and migrants, according to R4V partners.


R4V partners identified an increase of the migratory flows of Venezuelans to Mexico, with July and August registering the highest number of asylum claims lodged with the national asylum and refugee commission (COMAR) by Venezuelans so far this year, at 621 and 612, respectively. These are the highest number of asylum claims of Venezuelans registered so far in 2020 and 2021.

The national platform worked on the planning of a Joint Needs Assessments (JNA) to better understand the protection and integration needs of the Venezuelan population in Mexico. These exercises will be carried out in September and October in Querétaro, Monterrey, Puebla, Cancun and Playa del Carmen, with a report to be drafted with the main findings of the JNA.