Passa ai contenuti principali
European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Costa Rica: cash assistance makes a difference in the life of asylum seekers

35-year-old Elena* was recovering from COVID-19, which adversely affected her for over a month, when she received a call she was eagerly expecting: she would receive cash assistance to meet her family’s basic needs for 3 months.

Elena and her family left Nicaragua in 2021, amid a socio-political crisis, and sought asylum in Costa Rica.

Throughout 2022, with EU humanitarian support, 3,000 people seeking asylum in Costa Rica – including Elena – received cash assistance from UNHCR.

According to their family size and the region where they live, they can receive amounts between €145 and €420.

“It helped me a lot, so I will always be grateful for it,” says Elena.

“Cash aid helps to survive the first months, reducing the risk of negative coping strategies,” says Liesbeth Schockaert, EU humanitarian expert in Central America.

*Names changed for protection

A woman seen from the back, up front a sign hanging of the office.
“After UNHCR called me, I went to their office in Upala, I was given a debit card containing funds that would last 3 months,” says Elena. The EU has been funding UNHCR in Costa Rica since 2018 to support refugees fleeing from Nicaragua.
© UNHCR/Antonella Sudasassi
2 hands holding the brochure.
“Together with the debit card, I received an informative brochure on how to make purchases safely and indicating where to get more information, ” explains Elena.
© UNHCR/Antonella Sudasassi
Hand holding paper cash.
“This cash allowed me to buy medicines for my parents and myself. My parents are elderly with chronic conditions. My father lost his eyesight and was unable to keep on working.” Elena was also able pay water, electricity and rent.
© UNHCR/Antonella Sudasassi
2 woman kneeding dhough, hands and flower on a table.
Elena bought food and ingredients so that she and her mother could bake Nicaraguan breads, buns, empanadas, and tamales, which they later sell to their neighbours.
© UNHCR/ Antonella Sudasassi
Rows of flatbread on a table.
“In the morning, I go out to sell what we’ve cooked. For 5 bread units, I charge €1. We make ends meet both by selling bread and from the cash assistance. I hope I’ll be able to find a job that allows me to take my father to an eye doctor.”
© UNHCR/ Antonella Sudasassi
2 hands holding an opened passport.
“The last bit of cash assistance I received allowed me to go to San José, the capital of Costa Rica, to retrieve my documentation as an asylum-seeker, as well as a work permit. This will certainly make it easier for me to move on.”
© UNHCR/ Antonella Sudasassi
Woman reading a magazine.
“Cash aid supports local economies and fosters positive relationships with host communities. It can be crucial for integration processes,” says Liesbeth Schockaert, EU humanitarian expert in Central America.
© UNHCR/ Antonella Sudasassi

Story by UNHCR Costa Rica
Publication date: 23/06/2023