Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern Regarding Detentions and Deportations of Cuban Migrants in Ecuador

July 26, 2016

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern regarding the alleged eviction and arbitrary detention of nearly 150 people in Ecuador, as well as the alleged deportation of 121 Cuban migrants. The IACHR calls on the Ecuadorian State to adopt any measures that may be necessary to guarantee that all rights of migrant persons are respected, in particular their right to liberty, personal integrity, due process, and judicial protection, the right to seek and receive asylum, the principle of non-refoulement, and the right to family unity.

According to publicly available information, on July 6, 2016, the National Police of Ecuador, as part of a migration control operation, cleared out a camp that had been set up in Parque El Arbolito, in Quito. The eviction was reportedly carried out without warning, and a number of individuals said that they had been victims of acts of physical and psychological aggression and that their belongings had been confiscated. As a result of this operation, nearly 150 people—including children, adolescents, pregnant women, and elderly adults—reportedly were detained and transferred to a prison facility and an immigration detention center.

In addition, according to publicly available information, deportation hearings were held on July 7 and 8 at a court for minor offenses and juvenile offenders in Pichincha (Unidad Judicial de Garantías Penales, Contravenciones y Menores Infractores). According to Ecuador’s Interior Ministry, “of the first group of citizens of Cuban origin who attended the hearings, eight were released because they were part of a family unit, in other words, because they have Ecuadorian children. However, they should fix their immigration situation in order to obtain legal status in the country. Twenty-two individuals were released because they provided justification for their lawful stay in Ecuador.” A number of sources indicate that deportations of asylum seekers and refugees had been ordered. In addition, the Ombudsman’s Office of Ecuador expressed concern over the submission of such judicial decisions regarding deportations to a new, administrative jurisdiction, a situation that contravenes the principle of judicial independence.

According to information from the Ministry of the Interior, on July 9 the first group of 29 Cuban migrants were deported; on July 11 another 46 migrants were deported; and on July 13 a third group, for a total of 121 Cubans deported. According to publicly available information, the deportees were not properly notified of their deportation orders, and the time frames available to appeal these decisions had not been respected.

In keeping with its international human rights obligations, the Ecuadorian State should adopt all measures that may be necessary to ensure that racial profiling is not applied in the context of migration control operations. The State has a general obligation to respect all rights of migrant persons, including their right to live free of discrimination and free of all forms of violence and their right to personal integrity, personal liberty, family unity, and property.

The Commission observes with concern that the information it has suggests that the Ecuadorian State has made use of automatic immigration detention without first resorting to alternative measures. In that regard, the Commission calls to mind that immigration detention must be an exceptional measure, used only as a last resort and for the shortest period of time possible. In addition, when migrant persons are detained, States should adopt the necessary measures so that those who are detained have sufficient information regarding the nature of their detention, the reasons for it, the procedural guarantees or safeguards to which they are entitled, and the remedies available to appeal or challenge their detention. Moreover, States may not resort to immigration detention of children and their parents as a precautionary measure to protect the goals of an immigration process or procedures to determine refugee status.

The IACHR reiterates that, in keeping with international norms and standards, immigrants subject to proceedings that could lead to deportation must be afforded minimum guarantees. These include: (i) the right to be heard by the relevant authority in the context of the deportation proceeding and to have sufficient opportunity to exercise their right to a defense; (ii) the right to interpretation and translation; (iii) the right to have legal representation; (iv) the right to consular protection from the moment of detention; (v) the right to receive notification of a deportation order; (vi) access to an effective remedy to appeal a deportation decision; (vii) the right to appeal a deportation decision; and (viii) the right to suspension of deportation while the matter is under appeal.

The Commission calls to mind that the Ecuadorian State has the obligation to analyze, establish a basis for, and decide individually on each deportation that is carried out. At the same time, the Commission reiterates that the State has the obligation to respect the principle of non-refoulement and therefore not to deport to another country, whether or not it is the person’s country of origin, any foreigner whose rights to life, personal integrity, or personal liberty may be at risk of being violated. The principle of non-refoulement is the fundamental standard of protection of asylum seekers and refugees.     

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. 102/16