IACHR: States Must Guarantee Access to Fair and Effective Procedures for Refugees

June 20, 2023

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Washington, D.C. — In commemoration of World Refugee Day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on States to ensure access to fair and effective procedures for recognizing refugee status. These should include due process guarantees, a human rights approach, and differentiated approaches to protection based on intersectionality.

In recent years, the IACHR has observed a gradual increase in the number of forcibly displaced people in the Americas. The number of refugees and others in need of international protection in the region has risen by more than 6 million since 2021, an increase of 17.9%. Likewise, there has been a 146% increase in asylum applications in the region, which now number 435,600. According to the twice-yearly Spanish-language report on trends in the Americas published by UNHCR, in the first six months of 2022, at least two out of every five new asylum applications worldwide were filed by people from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Another point of concern is the need to strengthen protection structures in response to the persistence of root causes of displacement, such as violence, insecurity, conflict, inequality, persecution, and human rights violations. Furthermore, one in every six people assisted by UNHCR worldwide as part of its mandate lives in the Americas.

Large-scale mixed migration movements include people moving in response to various factors and with different protection needs. Many of these people come from the different regions of Latin America and the Caribbean and from other continents. These particularities—which are impacted by the political, economic, social, and environmental contexts of the States involved in the migration cycle—have posed challenges to providing comprehensive care for these people.

In parallel, in its 2022 Annual Report, the IACHR warned of the persistence of practices that limit access to States' territories to request protection. There is a growing tendency to adopt migration policies that include the outsourcing of migration control operations and the processing of asylum applications; the deployment of armed forces, the military police, and other security forces with military profiles and training to perform migration management tasks at borders; and the implementation of fast-track expulsion procedures to return asylum-seekers to their countries of origin and even to third countries, without ensuring due process guarantees.

The above circumstances are compounded by the lack of regular channels for international mobility that offer alternatives for those who do not require international protection, which has led to the use of longer, more dangerous routes. For example, the first months of 2023 saw more than 100,000 people crossing the Darién Gap, a record high. As they travel this route, people face serious risks that include inhospitable terrain and natural barriers such as large rivers, flash floods, dense vegetation, and wild animals.

In light of this, the IACHR noted once again that according to the Inter-American Principles, every person has the right to seek and be granted asylum in a foreign territory, in accordance with the legislation of the State and the applicable international conventions, and to access fair and efficient processes for determining refugee status. To this end, it is essential to guarantee that refugees and asylum seekers are not rejected at borders or immigration checkpoints; to ensure that the expulsion of refugees and asylum seekers is prohibited, including collective expulsion; and to end sanctions for irregular entry, including immigration detention.

In line with the report "Due Process in Procedures for the Determination of Refugee Status and Statelessness and the Granting of Complementary Protection," the IACHR also emphasized that procedures for recognizing refugee status are essential to providing protection and ensuring access to fundamental rights as part of the effective implementation of the right to asylum. These procedures should incorporate a human rights approach and differentiated approaches to providing protection for women, children, and adolescents, LGBTI people, and the elderly, among others, to address the disproportionate effects impacting refugees and asylum seekers in the exercise of their rights.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 128/23

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