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Refugee Agency Welcomes Costa Rica Credit Decision

UN Refugee Agency Welcomes Costa Rica's Decision To Extend Credit To Refugees

New York, May 10 2005 4:00PM

The United Nations refugee agency, which has been operating a microcredit programme in refugee camps in Costa Rica, has welcomed the decision of the country's courts to allow local banks to give loans to some 8,000 Colombians using their refugee identity cards.

Most of the Colombian refugees in Costa Rica arrived between 2000 and 2002, but the influx continues, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. Costa Rica hosts the second-largest concentration of Colombian refugees in Latin America, after Ecuador.

Late last week the Constitutional Chamber ruled that a bank's rejection of refugee Ricardo Angel's 2003 loan application to start a furniture-making business was discriminatory and violated his rights as a "temporary resident" of the country.

"This ruling is a step towards the local integration of the refugee population in Costa Rica," said UNHCR Representative James Kovar. "We now have an extraordinary precedent that opens wider possibilities to the refugee community in the country."

Most of the Colombian refugees have been in Costa Rica for almost five years, a length of time that has created various challenges for the authorities, the host community, UNHCR, its counterparts and for the refugees themselves, he said.

"This sort of protracted refugee situation has posed a tremendous challenge in the local integration of the refugees in Costa Rica, where the few options available, together with the lack of information in key services on refugee rights, have created barriers to durable solutions for some refugees," Mr. Kovar said.

The UNHCR microcredit programme, established in 2002, has allowed some 150 families to start such businesses as bakeries, restaurants, beauty salons, crafts workshops, candy production, music production and a recording studio, the agency said.

ENDS

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