More than 3,500 indigenous Ngäbe de Sixaola in cross-border condition will finally be able to regularize their immigration status, or acquire Costa Rican nationality, after the indigenous consultation process carried out amid the national emergency caused by Covid-19.
In this process, which ended on September 17, Costa Rica succeeded in getting institutions such as the General Directorate of Migration and Immigration and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to recognize and validate the representative organizations of indigenous peoples.
As a result, a reform was given to the regulations of the Law for the Protection of the Development of the Costa Rican nationality of the cross-border indigenous person and guarantee of integration of the cross-border indigenous person (Law 9710), which incorporates procedures and requirements to regulate their immigration status. adapted to their particular conditions, respecting the indigenous peoples’ own forms of organization.
Kathy Piedra Corella, from the Indigenous Consultation Technical Unit (UTCI), of the Ministry of Justice and Peace, affirmed that the fact that the effective articulation between the country’s institutional framework and this Ngäbe population has been achieved through the General Consultation Mechanism represents a milestone for the country in the recognition of indigenous rights.
She added that, in addition, it was the first consultation started and ended in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which required very close support and advice from the UTCI to the indigenous population and the institutions involved to design the dialogue process.
“In all its stages, the principles of Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization were protected, in adherence to the consultation mechanism procedure and, of course, in compliance with the health guidelines of the Ministry of Health, with the permanent support of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) ”, he added.
With the modification of the regulation, indigenous people who wish to regularize their condition must first be certified as cross-border indigenous, which must be established, according to international agreements, by the representative organizations of these peoples.
In addition, the possibility that they will have to acquire Costa Rican nationality, if they so request, implies another advance in strengthening the protection that the country’s regulations offer to indigenous communities, since it means for them the opportunity to exercise the fundamental right to nationality, consigned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among other international legal instruments.
“For us, as indigenous peoples, it was very important that this modification be approved so that we have an identity and that we be recognized as one of the indigenous peoples of the national territory. We have always had problems with the procedures in the institutions; they consider us as foreigners ”, emphasizes Julián José Eusebio, Ngäbe leader of the Indigenous Orientation Center.
For Daguer Hernández Vásquez, Deputy Director General for Migration and Foreigners, the result of this process becomes a fulfillment of the historical rights of the indigenous Ngäbe population that crosses the border between Costa Rica and Panama.
“It is important to point out that this regulation establishes that immigration procedures are exempt from any charges and fines, so that this population will have access to them free of charge. The regulations establish a more agile regularization process ”, explained Hernández.
The institutions involved, considering the Vice Ministry of the Presidency as the promoter of the process, began to meet in April to prepare a proposal for a Consultation Plan.
“Indigenous communities are being recognized a host of civil, political and identity rights based on these regulations. This is a historical fact that puts into practice the multiethnic and multicultural character of our Republic. With this, we are building democracy based on the respect and inclusion of our native populations, ”said the Vice Minister of the Presidency, Randall Otárola Madrigal.