The Nicaraguan women who emigrated to Costa Rica to escape Daniel Ortega’s repression are suffering “structural violence” on the part of the country that took them in, since the institutions “aren’t responding to theie needs”. For that reason, many of these women are doing temporary jobs and some have even had to sell their bodies so that they and their children can eat.
To sociologist Karina Hernandez, Official for the Prevention of Gender-based Sexual Violence for RET International, “the Costa Rican state has been in complete debt” with the 82,000 Nicaraguans who have asked for asylum. The process for regulating their immigration status is very slow, despite the fact that historically Costa Rica has been a country that receives its labor force from outside, regardless of gender.
Hernandez spoke at a forum organized by Confidencial on: “What type of violence are the Nicaraguan women who’ve migrated to Costa Rica been experiencing?” She explained that the majority of the Nicaraguans in line for asylum can’t access the country’s health services, which are open only to immigrant children or pregnant women. Because of this, she felt: “we’re putting the people that have come fleeing violence down on a second tier. In Costa Rica, they’re living a type of structural violence, because the institutions aren’t responding to their needs.”
The lack of protection that Hernandez denounced has caused the Nicaraguans who are requesting asylum to live in single rented rooms, sleep in the street or in the park called La Merced. In many cases they’ve had to turn to prostitution and they don’t have access to health or educational services. “Really, we’re in a dynamic of great instability, and I’d say of mutilation of the human rights of those asylum seekers,” she underlined.
Ana Quiros of the group Feminist Articulation spoke regretfully of the xenophobia towards Nicaraguans that exists in Costa Rica, particularly towards those that are poorest and towards the women immigrants. In that social context, “the (immigrant) Nicaraguan women are at a disadvantage in relation to the Costa Rican population”, because all their rights and those of their children are violated.
Silvia Cerda, an exile from Masaya, has experienced that revictimization that Quiros spoke of. Silvia hasn’t lost the hope of returning to her country. “This year and a half in exile has hurt. I tell you sincerely, it hurts. To know that my daughter has gone through three serious medical crises and I’m living here – it’s not fair, that’s violence. My daughter developed asthma as a result of the confrontations. When I left the city, she was in intensive care,” Silvia Cerda recalled.
Selena Baltodano is another exile from Masaya. She emigrated to Costa Rica with her whole family while she was pregnant. Having her children close gives her some assurance, but at the same time, it keeps her from working. She has to live in a small rented room because the apartment owners “don’t take children”. For her and her family, exile is “a very painful thing”.