By Magdalena Fallas - International Relations student
There are many factors that determine Costa Rica as an alternative country for immigration: its geographical position, a stable political climate and even our “pura vida” lifestyle contribute to the growing percentage of immigrants and refugees. In recent decades, our immigration rate has risen significantly, consisting today of 10% of the Costa Rican population (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, 2017), one of the largest shares of immigrants in the Latin American Region (OECD, 2018).
The flow of migrants and refugees are a key factor in the shape of a nation's foreign policy. In Costa Rica, under the Executive Branch, we have “La Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería” as the entity in charge of managing and executing our migration policies. Taking into consideration the economic and social impact of this population in our country, in hand with our strong values focused on the promotion of human rights, we work in the development of policies in favor of immigrants and refugees, seeking for the best mechanisms to integrate them within the Costa Rican society. Currently, one of our most important policies is the “Política Migratoria Integral para Costa Rica” signed in 2013 as a ten year commitment of the State to manage and control the flow of migration, which also exposes a set of parameters to strengthen the integration process of immigrants and refugees.
In 2018, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development issued the document "How Immigrants contribute to Costa Rica's Economy", analyzing three main areas that are impacted by immigrants in Costa Rica: labor markets, economic growth and public finance. This study was created due to the international exposure that we have been able to develop through our hard work put into our foreign policy. One of the main purposes of this document is to be of use for other governments to design their own effective policies on immigration for positive development results.
It is important to mention that even though Costa Rica encourages the integration of immigrants and refugees, it also counts with migration regulations such as Law N°8764: "Ley general de Migración y Extranjería", which establishes the regulations that apply to the entrance, stay and egress of foreigners into the country, and the different types of visas that exist depending on the specific condition of the person, giving Costa Rican authorities the right to deny the entrance of anyone that do not meet the requirements; always taking into consideration the safety and wellbeing of our citizens.
Our interest goes beyond our borders with active participation in forums like the “Regional Conference on Migration” and “The Central American Commission of Migration Directors” and the CELAC-EU Dialogue Mechanism on Migration. We also promote the creation of regional models and policies that seek to improve. It is important to take into consideration how we show ourselves within the framework of our foreign policy. Costa Rica understands and embraces globalization, therefore, we have to continue innovating policies that encourage the integration of immigrants and refugees, without leaving aside the importance of promoting development within the rest of the countries in our region that can be reflected in a better quality of life, which by means can reduce the immigration rate in Central America, and improve the development in a regional level.
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Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. (2017). Plan Nacional de Integración de Costa Rica 2018-2022. Retrieved from https://www.migracion.go.cr/Documentos%20compartidos/DIDH/Plan%20Nacional%20de%20Integraci%C3%B3n%20Costa%20Rica%202018%20-%202022.pdf
OECD/ILO. (2018). How Immigrants Contribute to Costa Rica’s Economy. Paris: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264303850-en