IACHR: States Must Strengthen National Protection Systems for Refugees

June 20, 2024

Washington, DC—On World Refugee Day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on the States of the Americas to strengthen national systems for the recognition of refugee status in order to respond to current displacement dynamics and the need for international protection using a human rights-based, intersectional, intercultural approach.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were a total of 117.3 million displaced people worldwide as of December 2023. A large proportion of new applications for refugee status in 2023 were from Venezuelans and Colombians. According to the UNHCR, some asylum seekers arrived in destination countries in North and Central America after risking their lives on the dangerous route through the jungle region of the Darién National Park. However, the IACHR noted that national systems are not analyzing international protection needs appropriately, given this increase in the number of displaced people.

In response to this scenario, the IACHR warns of the persistence of factors forcing people to leave their countries of origin or habitual residence to seek protection. The factors causing displacement include persecution, armed conflict, widespread violence, organized crime, poverty, and lack of development opportunities. People are also being forced to move in search of development opportunities or protection by climate change-related emergencies and natural disasters, including a lack of measures to mitigate these effects.

On the contrary, it notes with concern that the response of many States focuses on containing migration movements through strategies such as the externalization and militarization of borders, which leads to increased transit along dangerous routes and exposes people to multiple human rights violations, thereby increasing their vulnerability and marginalization. Many countries also resort to deportation procedures that lack due process guarantees and violate the principle of nonrefoulement. Moreover, national systems for determining refugee status are failing to acknowledge the differential impact that these processes have on women and other vulnerable groups, such as children and adolescents, Indigenous peoples, people of African descent, people with disabilities, the LGBTI community, and older people.

The IACHR recognizes that some States have taken positive measures to strengthen their national refugee protection systems. These include introducing simplified procedures for recognizing refugee status and improving the complementarity of legal status regularization mechanisms and international protection statutes. Such measures have helped guarantee access to rights and lasting solutions for asylum seekers.

To mark World Refugee Day, the IACHR deems it important to reiterate seven key recommendations for strengthening national protection systems for refugees in States in the Americas:

1.       Promote the application of the regional and international definitions of “refugee” (adopted by the Cartagena Declaration and the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocol, respectively) in order to ensure that they receive effective protection.

2.       Recognize new factors of displacement relating to natural disasters, climate change, and other environmental emergencies in national protection systems, ensuring that these risks are appropriately assessed and that the principle of nonrefoulement is applied where appropriate.

3.       Remove legal and practical barriers preventing people from accessing migration regularization or international protection procedures.

4.       Ensure due process, particularly regarding procedures for granting international protection status.

5.       Adopt a complementary approach between migration regularization and international protection mechanisms, based on access to rights and durable solutions, in order to address the needs of all people who are part of mixed migratory movements.

6.       Avoid refoulement, including through rejection at borders and indirect refoulement without prior individual analysis of possible international protection needs.

7.       Consider the adoption of collective protection mechanisms in response to the potential arrival of large-scale migration movements, as well as expeditious procedures for prima facie or group recognition of refugee status.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 144/24

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