The Refugee Unit (RU) at the Migration Authority has adopted two changes, effective 21 July 2021, in the Asylum Seeker Card for refugees and migrants from Venezuela: (1) the document issued for the first time will be valid for two years; and (2) the document includes the date the work permit becomes valid (3 months after issuance), hence the person does not need to return to the RU to obtain it.
On 27 July, officials announced the preparation of a joint strategy between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health to include persons with irregular immigration status in the national vaccination plan. Currently, the lack of documentation creates a barrier to vaccine registration, which makes it challenging for health authorities to track dose applications for those with irregular status. On the other hand, migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers over 20 years of age with the required documentation had access to vaccinations as of 28 July.
The General Directorate of Migration published Resolution N° DJUR-0141-07-2021-JM on the Temporary Special Category of Complementary Protection, which extends its scope of application. Under this new framework, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and Cubans whose asylum claim was denied may opt for this procedure.
While Costa Rica will stop requiring the purchase of a health insurance policy for inbound tourists fully vaccinated with Moderna,
Pfizer, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson as of 1 August, the measure does not include Sputnik V and Sinopharm, which are the main vaccines being applied in Venezuela. In this sense, Venezuelans vaccinated with the above-mentioned vaccines will still require the purchase of medical insurance that covers treatment for COVID-19 to enter Costa Rica.
In July 2021, there were 32 asylum applications received from Venezuelans (21 men and 11 women), for a total of 103 so far in 2021 (58 men and 45 women). To date, there are 2,453 applications pending decision. Additionally, 246 Venezuelans have been identified to have entered through the Darién Gap, border with Colombia, although this is not a usual route.
As of 30 July, a total of 106 interviews were carried out with Venezuelans, mostly asylum-seekers, for protection monitoring. The main priority needs identified continue to be access to basic needs and to documentation and/or regularization. Consequently, requests for assistance persist, mainly for livelihoods support, rental support, food, and healthcare. Nevertheless, access to food has been improving over the past months, as 47% of interviewees reported having access to 2 meals daily, and 40% to three or more meals a day. In terms of housing, most respondents continue to have payment arrangements with their lessors. Regarding livelihoods, 49% of people surveyed are still unemployed, however, 46% indicated having a source of income, mainly in the informal sector, of which at least one household member is working an average of 2-3 days a week. Concerning access to education, restrictions remain due to limited resources for connectivity and lack of individual electronic devices to allow for uninterrupted class attendance. Nevertheless, 85% of households with school-aged children reported that they are currently enrolled in school. Finally, during surveys conducted in late July, several respondents indicated that they had received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Given that the moratory period for rent payments has been lifted, many Venezuelans and other vulnerable persons face imminent eviction risks due to delays in rent payments mainly caused by the lack of income-generating activities.
Refugees and migrants remain at heightened risk of gender-based violence (GBV) due to vulnerabilities exacerbated by the COVID19 pandemic, especially the loss of livelihoods and related economic and emotional dependency, lack of access to basic needs and services, and the psychosocial impact of the overall context. In this sense, the requirement for mental health and psychosocial support programs and services is ever important to reduce this protection risk.