Award to Lutheran church in Costa Rica for refugee response

By agency reporter
December 17, 2019

The Lutheran Costa Rican Church (ILCO) has received the 'Living Integration Seal' award 2019, award given by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to organisations distinguished for their support to refugees.

Costa Rica is a host country to asylum seekers primarily from Latin America and the Caribbean, and a transit point for others. Over the past five years, the country has experienced an upward trend in the number of people seeking asylum as a result of political unrest and violence in the region, like the sociopolitical crisis in Nicaragua in April 2018.

Honouring 15 years of solidarity

The ILCO has accompanied the migrant population in Costa Rica for more than 15 years. The majority of the migrants were from Nicaragua and migrated for economic reasons. "In the last two years, migration, in addition to having grown, has increasingly roots in political unrest. Although it is still mostly Nicaraguan, there are also those from Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Haiti”, said Gilberto Quesada, Pastor President of ILCO.

ILCO works with refugees in three ways: offering pastoral and spiritual accompaniment, educating and accompanying them to obtain documentation to work and live in the country, and sheltering individuals or families while transiting in San José, either to obtain their documentation or while travelling toward areas in the north to look for work.

The shelter can host 30 people who may remain for two months. During the stay in the shelter, people receive accompaniment with food, clothing, medicines, legal attention, psychosocial and educational support for children.

The 'Living Integration' award is an official certification which the UNHCR Costa Rica grants to companies, organisations and institutions that demonstrate their commitment to refugees and asylum seekers. Organisations are granted the award for showing they value the contributions of refugees to the economy and cultural diversity, and promote the full integration of refugees through the defence of their rights. The award has been recognised at the regional level as a good practice and role model for middle-income countries with urban refugee populations.

Means for refugees to identify help

ILCO received the distinction along with 26 other public and private organisations, which work to support response to the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in the country, on 27 November 2019. UNHCR representative, Milton Moreno, extended “a sincere congratulation to the church for being a fundamental actor in humanitarian response.” He recognised the “distinguished work for refugees, which also highlights its contribution as an invaluable example for society, the Costa Rican state and the international community."

Meanwhile, Pastor President Gilberto Quesada expressed deep gratitude to all church employees who have made possible the provision of this humanitarian service, as well as to sister organisations which have supported these processes, such as Bread for the World, Mission Eine Welt and the ACT Alliance.

With the presentation of the Living Integration Seal, Costa Rica is the first country in the world where refugees can identify the institutions which have a commitment to their cause. This initiative allows local governments, public administration, universities, companies and civil society organisations to make visible the efforts they make in favour of refugees and asylum seekers, through social responsibility programmes.

* Lutheran World Federation https://www.lutheranworld.org/

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