Costa Rica in push to give identity cards to indigenous people, prevent statelessness

Fri Feb 26, 2016 11:42am EST
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By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Reynaldo Miranda was born in Costa Rica in the 1980s, no birth certificate was issued. He grew up without an identity card but did not consider his lack of official identity a problem until he applied for a school scholarship and got sick.

Like many among the Ngobe Bugle indigenous group, Miranda's parents were born in neighouring Panama, and had crossed into Costa Rica looking for seasonal work in coffee plantations.

Over the decades, many ended up settling in Costa Rica, and their children, known locally as Chiriticos, have been born and raised in the Central American nation.

"My parents never registered our births. They didn't really know about this. It's not something done in our culture. They didn't have any identity documents either," Miranda, now 28, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.

"This became a problem when I tried to apply for a scholarship to continue studying at school but without a birth certificate I couldn't get one and I had to drop out of school."

Without the certificate proving he was born in Costa Rica, Miranda found it difficult to get an identity card, and in turn could not register the birth of his own two children.

"Without an identity card, you don't have any rights," said Miranda, a coffee picker.

"You need a identity card for everything. Without it, I couldn't get the medicine and medical care I needed and any social welfare benefits."   Continued...

People fly a kite at the Peace Park in San Jose, January 10, 2013. The summer season is starting in Costa Rica, reported local media.  REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate