Costa Rica: Migration crisis in Central America and Mexico – Emergency appeal n° MDR43008 – Country operational strategy – Costa Rica



Funding requirement for Costa Rica: CHF 2.2 million
IFRC Secretariat funding requirement: CHF 18 million
Federation-wide funding requirement: CHF 28 million


Since 2016, Costa Rica has been part of the frequent route for Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans and other migrants to Central America. Their numbers have increased in recent months as the borders of South America’s “southern cone”, the southern part of the continent, have started to open up after being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Migrants continue to arrive in the Darien region between Panama and Colombia, most bound for North America. They face many risks on their journey through the Darien jungle and along the migration route to Mexico. The main drivers of increased migration flows are deteriorating socio-political and economic conditions, violence, unemployment, racism, unequal opportunities, increasing poverty and extreme weather conditions.

There is no official information available from the National Directorate of Migration and Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica regarding these migratory flows since the country still maintains certain entry restrictions, which is why migrants are tracked through the Panama and IFRC data.

Since June 2021, migration through the Darien has continued to increase, and according to the Panamanian government, in 2021 more than 132,000 migrants passed through this area. They further estimate that in the first half of 2022 alone, more than 42,000 migrants have already passed through.

Severity of humanitarian conditions

In 2022, there was a steady increase in the number of migrants at Costa Rica’s southern border, and by April the number had increased by 269% compared to December 2021, when monitoring began; 48,430 migrants entered through the Darien Jungle en route north from January to June 2022 (Source: National Migration Service – SNM by its Spanish acronym). According to the IOM, in May 2022, most migrants entering Costa Rica came from Venezuela, Haiti and Senegal and were heading to the United States.

As part of the COVID-19 pandemic, since March 19, 2020, the Government of Costa Rica has also kept its land border with Panama closed for its binational Controlled Flow Operation, which aims for the orderly and safe movement of migrants to across the Americas. This has restricted free movement at the border and increased the number of people crossing irregularly. Authorities and community leaders on Costa Rica’s southern border at Paso Canoas are now preparing for a massive influx of migrants from the Darien.

More than 6,500 people have also been affected in transit and are stuck in migrant reception stations (ERMs for their Spanish abbreviation) due to a national strike in Panama, and largely due to a blockade on the Pan-American Highway. This has led to a considerable decrease in the flow in Costa Rica, but a likely scenario is that this is only temporary and the group will move forward when the protests end or the authorities manage to negotiate their passage through the blocks. In either case, Costa Rica is expecting large numbers of migrants, a situation that could overwhelm local services, triggering a humanitarian response from authorities and NGOs.

It is not yet known how much this situation has affected the health and nutrition of these migrants, and the CRRC must be ready to provide adequate assistance. According to the IOM report, Flow Monitoring of People in Mobility Situations through the Americas, since March 20222, the lack of economic resources and access to food are the main difficulties encountered by migrants moving through the Americas, while during their stay in Costa Rica, access to food, health and safety became crucial.


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