Press Release

IACHR Welcomes the Measures Taken by Uruguay and Brazil for the Protection of Syrian Refugees

October 24, 2014

Washington, DC - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the measures taken by Brazil and Uruguay to provide a humanitarian response to the crisis experienced by refugees from the conflict in Syria. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as a result of the war in Syria, 6.5 million people have been forcibly displaced internally and more than 3 million have fled the country, creating the largest population of refugees worldwide.

According to publicly available information, Uruguay has committed to receive 120 Syrian refugees. On October 9, 2014, President José Mujica led the government delegation that received the first group of Syrian refugees, which comprised 42 people of five families, including 33 children. The Commission notes that Uruguay was the first Latin American country to carry out a program of resettlement of Syrian refugees since the war began in Syria.

The Uruguayan government has adopted a series of measures in order for those persons to receive housing, medical care, Spanish lessons, an introduction to the culture and customs of Uruguay, and job training. Also, families will have a technical support team during his first two years in Uruguay, including at least one social worker and a psychologist. It is also expected that girls and boys begin their integration into the Uruguayan educational system in the last week of October. In anticipation of such insertion, teachers, students and parent community have received prior sensitization consisting of videos and texts in order to promote a culture of peace, cultural diversity, language differences and lifestyles. Children will have the support of translators in schools.

For its part, the Brazilian government has planned to grant humanitarian visas for people who have been forcibly displaced by the armed conflict in Syria. Since September 2013, with the entry into force of Normative Resolution No. 17 of the National Committee for Refugees (CONARE), granting humanitarian visas to people affected by armed conflict in Syria and who want to apply for asylum in Brazil is expected. The implementation of this resolution has enabled the population in Syria, or those in the border regions, to move to Brazilian territory, with the purpose of facilitating them access to shelter. According to official data, as of July 2014, the Brazilian consulates in the region had granted 4,189 humanitarian visas. During the past two years, Brazil has recognized as refugees 1,512 people from Syria.

"On behalf of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, I salute and congratulate States Uruguay and Brazil for these humanitarian gestures and protection of human rights of these people who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of war plaguing Syria. The war in Syria is the most serious humanitarian crisis of our time. The numbers of dead and people who have been forced to migrate are not comparable to anything we've seen in recent history. That's why these actions of Uruguay and Brazil reaffirm, once again, the long humanitarian tradition of the States of the region in the protection of refugees and again, strengthen the region as a place of protection," said Commissioner Felipe González, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants.

"In this regard, we call on other states in the region to adopt similar measures to humanitarian crises in Syria, measures that become an example for humanity and for future generations. Millions of people in Syria as well as in other countries, face everyday situations of life and death and need our help. This is our opportunity to show that the suffering of these human beings is not foreign to us," he added.

In the year in which we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees and to the current dynamics that lead to the forced migration of millions of people, the Commission calls for States of the Americas to adopt the measures necessary to ensure effective protection of refugees, especially those who have fled their country because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by war, generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order. The Commission also encourages States in the region to take measures such as those of Uruguay and Brazil that result in the protection of asylum seekers and refugees, and to implement the necessary measures to facilitate their integration and full enjoyment of their humans rights in countries that give them refuge.

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 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. 126/14