Costa Rica repatriated 36 Costa Ricans after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico

6 November, 2017

After Hurricane Maria passed over the Caribbean islands, 36 Costa Ricans returned to their country from Puerto Rico. The Government of Costa Rica implemented this humanitarian initiative thanks to the coordinated effort of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cult, and the General Directorate of Migration (DGME), with the solidary support of the airline Volaris Costa Rica, and the support of IOM.

Costa Rica establishes in its legislation the State´s responsibility, through the DGME, to ensure the return of citizens abroad that are affected by humanitarian causes. This repatriation was carried under this framework, ethical, moral and legal principles, and through the Social Migration Fund, created in 2011 to support the social integration of migrants and to assist the humanitarian needs of Costa Ricans abroad.

´´IOM congratulates the Government of Costa Rica for this operation that protected citizens affected by crisis, also highlighting the coordination among institutions and the implementation of the Guidelines for the Protection of migrants in countries in situations of conflict or natural disasters, a global initiative supported by Costa Rica. IOM will continue supporting efforts related to consular and humanitarian protection through workshops in Costa Rica and across the region, involving private companies to foster the increasing collaboration among the sectors, evidenced in this occasion by the Government of Costa Rica´´ said Roeland de Wilde, IOM Chief of Mission in Costa Rica.

The repatriated Costa Ricans showed their appreciation, given the harsh circumstances in which they lived in the Caribbean Island: ´´I never imagined going through an experience like this one, leaving home and seeing everything destroyed. ´´In the hotel we had access to all services, but we didn’t have a way to get in touch with our family, which was vital´´ commented some of the Costa Rican´s in the plane.

Similar situations to the one occurred after Hurricane Maria represent a wake-up call regarding the vulnerability of the region to disasters of natural origin, and the impact they have on migrants. Because of such, in the last years there has been interest to ensure that the needs of migrants in countries of crisis are adequately addressed. As a result, a small group of state actors started working to explore and define the challenges, study good practices and collect evidence, and finally propose a series of guidelines to strengthen the capacities to save lives and attend to the vulnerabilities of migrants during crisis; all compiled in the Migrants in Countries of Crisis Initiative (MICIC).

The MICIC Guidelines facilitate the incorporation of actions related to migrants within national disaster risk reduction plans in countries of origin and destination. In this way, the states can provide an effective humanitarian response to protect migrants. 

Based on these guidelines, IOM, through the Mesoamerica Program, developed a capacity-building methodology to improve the capacities of States and other interested stakeholders to prepare and respond to crisis that affect migrants. In Costa Rica, IOM organized two local workshops (Upala and Paso Canoas), with a total of 33 participants from 27 institutions, and one at the national level in which 26 institutions and civil society organizations were represented. In the Mesoamerica region, IOM implemented 17 similar workshops training 300 officers from state institutions and civil society organizations.

This initiative is possible thanks to the Mesoamerica Program, which seeks to contribute to the development and implementation of strategies in Mesoamerica for the promotion of regular, orderly and safe migration, ensuring the human rights protection of migrants.