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R4V Response for Venezuelans – Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela: Central America and Mexico Situation Report – March 2020

Situation Report
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The Government of Costa Rica responded to COVID-19 with an emergency declaration on 16 March, and several measures, including movement restrictions and closing of national borders, which restrict entry to nationals and residents. An additional decree prohibits legal status holders from re-entering the country if they depart between 25 March and 12 April, and they lose their status if entering irregularly. The border rejections and subsequent responses may place refugees and migrants from Venezuela at risk. The Migration Authority provided a two-month extension of documentation for persons of concern and an online process for new work permits; In addition, no new asylum claims are being formalized (resulting in a nearly 7-month wait for documentation), and no new interviews are being conducted (increasing the backlog of cases pending adjudication to 25,913 as of 31 Mar 2020). Those awaiting documentation do not have access to healthcare services, beyond life-saving emergencies or COVID-19; regular medical attention is a key need, particularly for those in high-risk categories. Social distancing protocols and other restrictions have resulted in many refugees and migrants from Venezuela losing their jobs, affecting their livelihoods and ability to meet basic needs. As a result, food security and housing / shelter needs are growing rapidly by the day.

In Mexico, travel restrictions related to COVID-19 have caused the number of people trying to apply for asylum at Mexican airports to drop, including nationals of Venezuela. A decrease of arrivals from refugees and migrants from Venezuela was noticed at the airports, however, accurate figures regarding arrivals are not available.

The Government of Panama declared a State of National Emergency to face the risk caused by COVID-19, taking a series of protection measures for all people in the country, including the closure of all borders, schools, stores, and imposing a curfew among other measures. This situation placed several operational challenges and has affected the implementation of all activities planned for this period. Asylum authorities are still working with reduced staffing while interviews are rescheduled. No new applications are being received, but those who six months term for applying is about to expire, are being listed by the ONPAR so their application will be formalized when possible. The National Immigration Service has taken measures in response to COVID-19, suspending attention to the public and all migratory procedures. Regarding to the documentation of residence permits (permanent, provisional and in process), there is an extension of their validity until the first week of April. Regarding work permits, the Ministry of Labor has taken similar measures, extending the validity of the cards until April 30th.