Five years ago the situation in El Salvador caused Dorys Gómez and her family to flee her home country and come to Costa Rica to seek a better life. Now she works with volunteer program Red de Jóvenes Lazos Sin Fronteras to help those like her find acceptance.
“Sometimes people come here because they don’t have a choice. Costa Rica for me is like a second chance. I want people to understand this,” she said.
Red de Jóvenes Lazos Sin Fronteras is a network of young volunteers, migrants and refugees who come together to achieve social integration of youth in their environments. The non-profit is one of the many civil society organizations working with the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería to help assimilate immigrants into Costa Rican culture.
A new immigration law, Ley 8764, mandates in several articles that the office promote, regulate, guide, and sort the dynamics of immigration and emigration, in a way that contributes to national development through economic, social and
cultural enrichment of Costa Rican society.
For this reason the office has two new initiatives, Rutas de Integración and Entre Vecinos.
Rutas de Integración is a program designed to ensure that migrant and refugee populations have better access to information on public facilities in Costa Rica. They are issued a caja de herramientas, which essentially is a box with recreational and educational tools. These materials are based on four fundamental themes, education, health, migration and work, explained Freddy Montero Mora, subdirector general in the office.
According to Millaray Villalobos Rojas who heads the integration and development project, 9 percent of the Costa Rican population was born in another country. Of that percentage, 75 percent are Nicaraguan.
This program is important because it permits these immigrants to obtain true and important information in a way that they can understand. Many of the Nicaraguan immigrants can’t read, so they are given guides with photos in their tool box so they can understand and remember information, she said.
Staff members were trained under this program so they are able to transmit knowledge to the communities under their jurisdiction. With all of this, migrants can make steps to fill prerequisites, obtain services and begin to work.
Ms. Gómez said her organization goes out in teams and works with large groups, trying to give the youth who are working fresh, new ideas.
Between February and August there were eight sessions of trainers workshops in Upala, San Carlos, Siquirres, Jacó and San José with a total participation of 170 people. In the workshops there was representation of many state institutions, Montero said.
The second program, Entre Vecinos, is a strategy for the promotion for integration in migrant neighborhoods.
It works within a framework of respect and fulfillment of human rights and aimed at growth in values of service, justice and transparency, said officials. Leaders of the program are responsible for encouraging, guiding, coordinating and evaluating the process of organization of communities, involving the active and conscious developing of economic, social aspects and culture, and encouraging efforts of population participation, both migrant and refugee.
The main topics are coordinated implementations of interventions in education, health, public safety, care and protection of children and the elderly, employment, production, culture, sport, infrastructure, housing and public transport.
Despite all the efforts, the process is still hard because of money and the fact that some people don’t want the immigrants here. However, the program’s slogan says that hand in hand participants can build a better country works to combat this xenophobia.
“It’s hard because older people don’t understand that people coming from other countries can be positive. They think their country is the best and don’t want immigrants here. But we still work together,” Ms. Gómez said.