San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Casa de Derechos Opens in Desamparados

Navigating Costa Rican bureaucracy to access the services one needs can be a confusing process for immigrants and Ticos alike, and the new Casa de Derechos, inaugurated Nov. 2 in the southern San José suburb of Desamparados, seeks to make it easier by pooling resources under one roof.

Legal advice, counseling, alternative conflict resolution, information about sexual health and help filling out government paperwork are among services available at the center, which was designed with immigrants and refugees in mind but is available to anyone.

Strategically located in Desamparados, the second most heavily populated canton, the center is a joint effort of the DesamparadosMunicipality, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Association of International Consultants and Advisors (ACAI) and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Funding for the building’s renovation came from the Netherlands and U.S. Embassies.

“This is a place where people can come to learn their rights and how to get access to them,” said UNHCR spokesman Giovanni Monje, explaining that the center is the first of its kind in Costa Rica and is modeled after similar centers in Quito, Ecuador, and Bogotá, Colombia.

Ramón Eduardo Monsalve, a refugee from Colombia who’s lived in Costa Rica for four years, sold sweet crackers with dulce de leche in front of the new center recently as part of a fair at which refugee small business owners sold some of their products.

He said he could have used a center like Casa de Derechos when he first arrived to Costa Rica.

“I almost left because I had such a hard time,” he said. “Now thank God I’ve gotten ahead.”

Casa de Derechos is located 100 meters west and 50 meters south of the DesamparadosMunicipality in front of the Funeraria del Recuerdo Park. It’s open from Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; for more information, call 219-4976 or 250-9105.


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