About 62,000 Nicaraguans have been forced from their homes in the Central American nation, of which 55,500 have sought safety in Costa Rica, according to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR).
"The kinds of reasons that people have been giving for fleeing are the fear of losing their lives, being attacked or kidnapped by paramilitary groups," UNHCR spokesperson Elizabeth Throssell told journalists in Geneva."Some have received direct threats or have been persecuted; others fear for their lives because their communities have been a target of violence ... so we do feel that it is overwhelmingly a refugee flow."
At least 300 people have been killed, 2,000 injured and several hundred detained in a crackdown on protests in the past year, according to the U.N. human rights office.
Since then nearly 30,000 Nicaraguans have applied for asylum in Costa Rica, many of them students, former public officials, opposition figures, journalists, doctors, human rights defenders and farmers, according to government figures. Costa Rica has maintained its open-door policy for migrants and refugees, but services are overstretched with about 26,000 Nicaraguans waiting to have their asylum claims processed, the UNHCR said.
“Throughout the last year, the government of President Ortega has brutally and repeatedly repressed anyone who dares to stand up to his administration. The Nicaraguan authorities continue to violate the rights to justice, truth and reparation of hundreds of victims, while also preventing civil society organisations and international human rights monitors from working freely in the country,” said Amnesty International’s Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas.“This has got to stop,” she added.
“Violations…coupled with the lack of accountability for unlawful excesses by members of the security forces, have stoked rather than reduced the tensions in the country,” said UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.