Press Release

IACHR Publishes Report on Legal Standards for Persons in the Context of Human Mobility

November 4, 2016

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today is publishing its report “Human Rights of Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons, Victims of Human Trafficking and Internally Displaced Persons: Norms and Standards of the Inter-American Human Rights System.” Today we live in a world on the move. In recent decades, there has been a gradual increase in human mobility, be it internal or international migration. Human mobility has become one of the main issues on the global agenda.

By the end of 2015, the number of international migrants was estimated at 244 million worldwide, which represented 3.3 percent of the world’s population—a figure expected to increase in the coming decades. Close to 63 million of the world’s international migrants live in countries of the Americas.
Meanwhile, estimates are that more than 740 million people around the world are migrants within their own countries. One particularly serious situation involves those who have been forced to flee their homes in their own countries, as in the case of internally displaced persons. In the Americas, more than 8 million people have been internally displaced because of violence and armed conflict. Many others have been forced to move because of large-scale development and mining projects and the impact of natural disasters and climate change.

The report examines the main dynamics and causes of migration in the hemisphere. Among the major factors that spur migration in the region are growing socioeconomic disparities, particularly in terms of inequality, poverty, and unmet basic needs; the impact of armed conflict and criminal violence in some countries; the deteriorating economic, social, and political situation in various countries; the need for family reunification; the impact of the actions of national and transnational corporations; and climate change and natural disasters.
In recent years, there have been some developments in terms of legal recognition of the rights of migrants and other persons in the context of human mobility in member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS). However, these developments still fall short considering the circumstances people in the context of human mobility face in practice. This report is particularly relevant at a time when the migration policies of some States in the region are more focused on addressing the issue from the perspective of national security and containment of migration movements than from a human rights perspective. In recent years, the Commission has noted with concern how some States have tightened their migration policies, in a context in which nationalist movements and populist politicians promote racist and xenophobic discourse and actions against migrants and stateless persons or those at risk of becoming stateless.
Migrants tend to fall victim—simply because they are migrants—to multiple human rights violations in their countries of origin, transit, destination, and return. In this context, one of the main challenges people face in the context of human mobility in the region is the continued existence of many State policies, laws, and practices, as well as actions and omissions of non-State actors and individuals, that fail to recognize migrant persons as subjects of law and that violate their human rights.

The fact that migrants in another country often do not speak the language, are unfamiliar with the law, and are living in poverty means that many end up in extremely vulnerable situations. They are often victims of different types of discrimination and violence at the hands of the local population and even the authorities. The Commission has observed that this situation is particularly serious in the case of migrants in an irregular situation, whose situation exposes them to even more abuse and leads them to avoid contacting the authorities for fear of being placed in immigration detention and eventually deported. These situations have an even greater effect on migrant women and children, who also face the risk of other abuses such as sexual violence, human trafficking, and inhuman and degrading working conditions. These factors contribute to the fact that crimes and human rights violations against persons in the context of human mobility are often invisible or underreported.

One of the main challenges the Commission has identified with regard to persons in the context of human mobility are the serious obstacles involving access to justice. The result is that most human rights violations in this context remain in a state of impunity, and people in this situation have no access to an effective judicial remedy or to full reparation. This report comes in response to the pressing need that the right to judicial protection and access to justice constitute an effective means by which persons in the context of human mobility can lay claim to their rights when these have been violated and be guaranteed their right to equal protection of the law and non-discrimination.

The main purpose of this report is to lay out the legal standards developed by the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights—in keeping with the obligations arising from the inter-American human rights instruments, particularly the American Convention on Human Rights, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and other applicable inter-American and international instruments—with regard to the scope and content of the human rights of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, persons in need of complementary protection, stateless persons, victims of human trafficking, and internally displaced persons.

This report is the result of a process led by the IACHR Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants, which collects and systematizes the case law and jurisprudence developed by the bodies of the inter-American human rights system on matters related to persons in the context of human mobility. The standards presented in this report are those that the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court have developed through reports on petitions and cases, judgments, advisory opinions, precautionary measures, provisional measures, and country and thematic reports over the course of the almost six decades since the Inter-American Commission’s creation in 1959. The report also incorporates extensive information compiled by the IACHR through monitoring mechanisms such as country visits, thematic studies and country reports, requests for information, hearings, and working meetings.

This report seeks to provide human rights guidelines to the OAS Member States when it comes to adopting public policies, laws, and practices related to migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, persons in need of complementary protection, stateless persons, victims of human trafficking, and internally displaced persons. The hope is that this report will also serve as a useful resource for judges, public authorities, national human rights agencies, lawyers, human rights defenders, and nongovernmental organizations, as well as for migrants themselves, on the scope and content of their rights and how to make them justiciable before the courts, as defined by the inter-American human rights system.

Commissioner Enrique Gil Botero, the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, said: “It is a great honor for me to have this report published. Its preparation involved an arduous and thorough process. This year the IACHR Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants turns 20 years old, and there are still a great many very serious human rights violations faced by persons in the context of human mobility. Access to justice and to judicial protection for migrants and other persons in the context of human mobility remains unfinished business in many countries in the region. That is why we trust that this report will prove useful to judges, judicial employees, lawyers, human rights defenders, and migrants in different situations in protecting the rights of these persons within national, regional, and international systems of justice.” Commissioner Gil added, “On behalf of the Inter-American Commission, I would like to express our profound appreciation to the Central America and Mexico Migration Alliance (CAMMINA), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the government of Spain, whose financial contributions have made it possible to prepare and release this report.”

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. 164/16