San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.N. Commission Concerned About Refugees’ Rights

Recent plans by Colombian and Costa Rican authorities to check the criminal records of approximately 10,000 Colombians refugees living in Costa Rica violate international norms for respecting their rights, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Sunday in a full-page ad in the daily La Nación.

Upon returning from a visit to Colombia earlier this month, Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal announced that Costa Rican and Colombian officials would go through a list of names of Colombians living in Costa Rica, a decision inspired by the arrest of a Colombian guerrilla with Costa Rican residency accused of coordinating arms and drug trafficking through Costa Rica (TT, Sept. 15).

The High Commissioner has requested a meeting with him to explain the organization’s concerns, but the Public Security Ministry has denied these requests, said UNHCR spokesman Geovanni Monge.

Given this lack of response, UNHCR decided to publish its concerns in La Nación, he said, adding that “what worries us is the establishment of a link between refugees and delinquency.”

The current measures announced by Berrocal break with Costa Rica’s tradition of providing asylum,Monge said. In particular, sharing information about refugees’ backgrounds violates their right to confidentiality.

Immigration Director Mario Zamora recently pointed out flaws in the system of granting refugee status that allow for the acceptance of false documents, creating uncertainty over whether those given refugee status have clean criminal histories (TT, Sept. 15).


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