Por Jimena de Jesús Campos Paniagua – International Relations Student
“We were not equal before the pandemic, and we have not been equal in the face of it. Those who were poor before it have become poorer; those who were disadvantaged now face even greater disadvantages.” Those were the words of Dunja Mijatotovic (2020), who serves as Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. Very true words given the global context, the covid-19 has not only been a global catalyst for the violation of human rights, beyond that it has shown us as a society that we was not prepared to take an active participation in the safeguarding of rights humans in an emergency situation, and it is that we have realized that in the pandemic vulnerable populations have become much more vulnerable, not only because of the virus, but also because of the consequences that it has had at an economic and social level. To exemplify this phenomenon will make a case study about the migrant population in Costa Rica.
It could be said that migration to Costa Rica is divided into two aspects, on the one hand we have European and North American migrants who come to the country to retire and end their quiet days, and on the other hand we have a group of migrants who come from countries in crisis within Latin America, such as Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and, some years ago, Colombians, along with many others from the rest of Central America who come in search of a life and growth at all levels that their countries simply cannot offer. This second group is the focus of our study for the present case. This group has been one of the most vulnerable during the pandemic, it is also the most diverse since it is made up of people from different social strata and within themselves, they also have different levels of vulnerability, what differentiates them from the national population is the benefits and the protection of the state. Even though in Costa Rica foreigners enjoy the same rights as nationals by Constitution, it can be said that in many cases this applies to theory and not so much to practice.
Regarding this, we can mention certain protections that were granted at the beginning of the pandemic and in its darkest moments, such as the Protect Bonus, granted to families that due to quarantine were terminated from their jobs or wages were cut back and could no longer meet their basic needs. Refugees and permanent residents in the country qualified for this bonus (ACNUR, 2020), here we apply the theory of equality between foreigners and nationals in Costa Rica. However, we know that within the country we have hundreds of people who do not have any type of immigration status and that they come to the national territory to work with a salary that no national would accept as decent. This group of undocumented people was the most affected by the pandemic, since just as the whole world stopped the immigration procedures of many people were also put on indefinite pause, without results even today. No job, no documents, no protection from the state.
The worst part? We have no one to blame, and with this we can go back to the root of the problem, which is that the system was definitely not prepared to face a situation like this and ultimately it was not capable of handling the millions of requests for help it receives every day. It is important to highlight that as a country we are working every day to give our best, and even though Costa Rica leads the rankings of human rights in Latin America, cases like these arise every day. With cases of human rights violations perpetuated by no one, but an inefficient system. This leaves us with a valuable lesson for all of us who observe the problem in a foreign way: we can no longer afford to procrastinate in realizing human rights for all.
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ACNUR. (2020). Bono Proteger. Emergencia nacional por COVID-19. https://help.unhcr.org/costarica/coronavirus/bono-proteger
Mijatovic, D. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on human rights and how to move forward, Commisioner for Human Rights. Council of Europe. https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-human-rights-and-how-to-move-forward