HIAS is expanding its footprint in Central America with a brand new office in San Jose, Costa Rica dedicated to providing legal support and services to vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers.
Costa Rica is a major destination these days, and not only for travelers seeking an idyllic vacation spot with picturesque beaches and incredible biodiversity. The Central American nation, which sits between Panama and Nicaragua, has seen continuous growth in the number of asylum seekers arriving from the Northern Triangle countries and from Nicaragua, Colombia and Venezuela. Costa Rica is also a transit point for Cubans and other Caribbean, African and Asian individuals heading north in search of asylum in the U.S. and Canada.
HIAS Costa Rica opened its doors to refugee clients for the first time last week. The team provides legal information trainings to refugees, educating them about their rights and obligations in the country, how to navigate the asylum process, and making them aware of the non-legal services available to them.
HIAS staff also conducts individual interviews with refugees, referring them to medical, social and vocational services. In addition, HIAS Costa Rica’s legal team provides intensive, individual legal representation for the most vulnerable - including unaccompanied children, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, and refugees with disabilities. The team prepares clients for asylum interviews, drafts petitions to support their refugee claims, and represents them during hearings with government authorities.
Through individual legal representation as well as coordination with stakeholders in the country’s legal community, HIAS seeks to lay a strong foundation for refugee protection efforts in Costa Rica.
“We estimate that we will be able to serve nearly 6,500 refugees this year, delivering comprehensive legal information and assistance,” said Kathya Araya, Country Representative for HIAS Costa Rica.
HIAS will dramatically increase the availability of refugee protection services in Costa Rica with access to durable solutions. HIAS also aims to increase the capacity of Costa Rica’s legal community to provide sensitive, high-level legal services to refugees.
“For any refugee anywhere in the world, access to legal assistance can mean the difference between obtaining rights and protection and being sent back to a country where your life or liberty are at risk,” said Rachel Levitan, associate vice president for global programs at HIAS. “This new program will allow us to offer those protections to a significant number of very vulnerable people and families in Costa Rica.”
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