IOM releases the Migration Profile for Nicaragua

Nicaragua – According to IOM’s Migration Profile for Nicaragua, Nicaragua is mainly a country of origin for migrants who migrate to North America and Costa Rica, and to neighbouring countries in search of better economic opportunities.  The country also hosts a small number of migrants, mainly from Honduras and El Salvador, and extra-regional migrants in transit on their way to North America.

The Profile reports an estimated 800,000 Nicaraguans living outside their country, which represents more than 10 per cent of the total population.

Since the 1980s, Costa Rica and the United States have been the main destination countries for Nicaraguan migrants.  Since 2000, south-south migration flows began in earnest with Nicaraguans migrating to El Salvador and Panama; and the feminization became a new trend of migration flows. Cross border temporary or seasonal migration also takes place to Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras.   Afro-Nicaraguans living along the Caribbean coast, migrate for temporary/seasonal work, mainly recruited by cruise lines, to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Belize.

The Report also points out Spain became a destination country for Nicaraguans, mainly for women who are employed in the domestic and other service sectors.

"Although Nicaraguans choose to migrate for a host of reasons, the main one is the search for better economic opportunities. Nicaraguan migration flows are characterized mainly by the labour component," explained Carmen Paola Zepeda, Head of the IOM Office in Nicaragua.

"It is also important to point out that a significant proportion of migrants are vulnerable due to their irregular situation in countries of destination," added Zepeda. Fully aware of this issue, Nicaragua has started to implement a Consular Registry, which gives the migrants a consular carnet that identifies them as Nicaragua Nationals.

While in transit to North America, migrants are exposed to physical and psychological danger, as well as to human rights abuses by unscrupulous employers.

In 2012 Nicaragua’s population was 6.07 million, with 60% living in urban areas.  Projections for 2050 indicate the total population will reach 8 million persons.

"Future migration flows from Nicaragua will depend on economic growth, the availability of good jobs and opportunities for human development, especially amongst the younger population, which is the main force that can contribute to the future development of the country, as points out the Human Development National Plan," added Zepeda.

According to the IOM Migration Profile, the Central American region supports the free flow of goods and services, and relevant progress has been made in order to promote human mobility. Nevertheless, the mobility of workers remains a challenge between Central American countries.

Nicaraguan male migrants in Costa Rica, Panama and El Salvador are employed mainly in the construction and agricultural sectors, while women are for the most part employed in the personal and social services sectors, mainly domestic service.  

"It’s important to point out that there are strong pull factors, such as the need for labour force for the construction and agriculture sectors in El Salvador and for the expansion of the canal in Panama; this coupled with the potential for much higher salaries for these migrants.  Another very important factor in the region, although Nicaragua is the safest country of the region, is the presence of organized criminal networks who are also involved in narcotics and human trafficking.  This feeling of insecurity pushes many Central Americans to search for safer environments for their families, for instance in Nicaragua," added Zepeda.

The Profile reports on the knowledge and skills gained by the Nicaraguan diaspora as a potential tool for the development of the country and calls for programmes to encourage Nicaraguans abroad to share their skills.

"We are interested in promoting a law to protect the human rights of our nationals abroad, and the information provided by the Migration Profile is a basis to start a process of awareness-raising for the formulation of a law for this sector," pointed out Juan Ramón Jimenez, President of the Municipalities, Development and Population Commission of the National Assembly.

The report also points out the vital role that remittances play at the family, community and national levels and stresses the need for public policies to support financial literacy for remittance recipients, as well as access to financial institutions. According to Nicaragua’s Central Bank, in 2012 remittances sent by migrants to families left behind amounted to US$1,014.2 million. In 2011, the amount received was equivalent to 12.5% of the GDP.

“The IOM Migration Profiles are an essential tool for the governments, private sector and other concerned parties to plan and execute coherent policies.  It is also a vital tool for local governments and intergovernmental actors when providing assistance to migrants in their communities,” said Robert Paiva, IOM Regional Director for North and Central America and the Caribbean.

The Reports also acknowledges some important governmental initiatives aimed at protecting migrants rights and strengthening migration management, including the ratification of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the entry into force of a new Migration Law which creates a National Migration Council to design migration policies, and the inclusion of human trafficking in the new legislation against gender-based violence.

Amongst the recommendations, the Profile calls for the creation of a National Migration Policy by the National Migration Council, a Vice Ministry for Nicaraguans Abroad; and the inclusion of the diaspora and their families in development strategies.

The Profile, the first to be released in Central America, is  made up of four parts: A) Migration trends and characteristics of this segment of the population; B) The consequences of migration, which explores the effects of migration from a human development perspective; C) Migration governance which looks at current legislation as well as regional and international migration-related instruments; and D) Conclusions and recommendations for the development of national migration policies, based on the extensive consultation process which took place during the elaboration of the IOM Migration Profile.

The IOM Migration Profile for Nicaragua is part of the EU-funded project "Strengthening the Dialogue and Cooperation Between the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean to Establish Management Models on Migration and Development Policy".

"The goals of the European Union are to advance the positive relation between migration and development, work toward improved migration management, and to avoid irregular migration, human trafficking and migrant smuggling, which can lead to human rights violations.  The Migration Profile for Nicaragua is a clear example of good practices to reach those goals," said Ivo Gombala, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation in Nicaragua.

Other IOM Migration Profiles in the Latin America and the Caribbean include: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The Profile for Nicaragua is available in Spanish at

For more information please contact

Alexandra Bonnie
IOM Nicaragua
Tel: + 505 22 78 95 69