Ombudsman’s Office Urges Reforms to Immigration Law

July 27, 2007

More work is needed to make sure the Immigration Law being studied by the Legislative Assembly’s Governance Commission protects human rights, argued Interim Ombudsman Daniel Soley Tuesday before the commission.

Soley listed several points his office finds problematic about the law and suggested actions to correct them, including giving government offices more power to detect and prevent “marriages of convenience,” or those orchestrated solely for one partner to gain residency here, according to a statement from the Ombudsman’s Office.

He also mentioned the law’s failure to take into account Costa Ricans who migrate abroad. The government is responsible for “generating conditions and options necessary so that the national population is not obligated to migrate in search of better living conditions to satisfy their needs,” the statement said.

Additionally, better norms should be established to ensure alleged illegal immigrants being detained here are guaranteed their basic human rights including access to food, safety and health services, Soley argued.

He also touched on the need to improve the process through which refugee status is granted and to better protect migrants who have been the victims of human trafficking.

The Governance Commission is studying the Immigration Law, which was approved in 2005 during the administration of former President Abel Pacheco, with a clause stating  the government had eight months to prepare before it took effect (TT, Sept, 8, 2006).

Upon taking office in May of last year, President Oscar Arias and his officials attempted to postpone the law, but the Legislative Assembly did not approve the delay bill in time.

Instead, Arias created a technical team to study and propose reforms, a process which culminated last month when Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal and Immigration Director Mario Zamora presented the commission with 60 reforms to the Immigration Law that aim to guarantee the respect of human rights and allow immigrants greater participation in Costa Rican society.

The suggestions made Tuesday by Soley are supplemental to the suggested reforms drafted by the technical team, of which his colleague Ombudswoman Lisbeth Quesada was part, explained Ombudsman’s Office spokesman Ahmed Tabash.

“We hope the commission takes these recommendations into consideration when they propose reforms to the law,” he said.

 

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