Press Release

IACHR expresses concern over the situation of the "Migrant Caravan" from Honduras and calls on the States of the region to adopt measures for their protection

October 23, 2018

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the human rights violations and abuses faced by persons of the “Migrant Caravan” marching from Honduras. The IACHR urges the States concerned to adopt measures to guarantee the human rights of these individuals—in particular the right of persons in need of international protection to request and receive asylum—and to strengthen mechanisms of shared responsibility to address the situation of persons that have been forced to migrate.

According to information gathered by the IACHR, on October 13, 2018, several hundred people, mostly Hondurans, met in the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras and began their journey north. They planned to travel through Guatemala to Mexico and the United States in what has been called the "Migrant Caravan." As time has passed, more people have joined the caravan, and multiple sources indicate that it is currently made up of more than 7,000 individuals from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Over the last few years, the IACHR, civil society organizations, and international bodies have monitored the situation with great concern as various forms of violence and other hardships have led to a significant rise of Honduran asylum seekers and refugees in other countries in the region, including children, adolescents, and unaccompanied minors. Members of the Caravan have declared that they abandoned their country of origin to escape gang violence and other human rights violations, and due to poverty and lack of opportunities. The caravan is composed largely of families and includes people in situations of special vulnerability, including children, pregnant women, and elderly individuals.

The IACHR has observed that the caravan’s journey has triggered reactions and hostile measures by some authorities in transit and destination countries against the migrants and human rights defenders of the caravan. These reactions include pronouncements to stop the caravan, close borders, and to detain and deport caravan members. The IACHR expresses its particular concern over the statements made by United States officials characterizing the caravan as a threat to sovereignty and national security, and affirming that this movement of migrants includes many criminals. In this context, the IACHR rejects the use of stigmatizing and criminalizing language and unfounded accusations in reference to migrants and asylum seekers, which may encourage xenophobic attitudes against such persons.

According to information received by the IACHR, migrants and asylum seekers face several obstacles to their safe transit through Guatemala and their arrival in Mexico. During their journey, caravan members have faced precarious situations regarding a lack of access to food, water, healthcare, medical services, and shelter. Furthermore, in making the journey outdoors, they are exposed to harsh weather and route conditions, as well as altercations with state authorities. On October 21, the IACHR was informed that Guatemalan authorities had proceeded to return 1,121 Hondurans to their country. The IACHR urges transit and destination country authorities to refrain from using force to manage mixed migration movements in order to guarantee respect for the migrants’ and asylum seekers’ rights to life and personal integrity. Additionally, the IACHR urges caravan members not to resort to violent actions and to respect national laws.

The IACHR reaffirms that, although the States have the right to establish their migratory and international protection policies, these policies, laws, and practices must respect and guarantee the human rights of all migrants and asylum seekers—which are rights and freedoms that derive from human dignity.

The IACHR recommends that States concerned adopt a coordinated response that respects and guarantees the human rights of the individuals that make up the “Migrant Caravan” and that incorporates the following measures:

1. Guarantee the right to request and receive asylum for people that require international protection or satisfy their urgent humanitarian needs, such as respecting and guaranteeing the principles of family unity and children’s best interests.

2. Guarantee, through fair and effective procedures, the recognition of refugee status to people who have a well-founded fear of persecution if returned to their country of origin, or who consider that their life, integrity or personal freedom would be threatened due to the situation of violence, massive human rights violations, and serious disturbances of public order, as defined by the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees of 1984. In this sense, the States concerned should quickly build up and mobilize the personnel and resources needed for their national asylum systems to adequately and efficiently respond to requests for asylum and additional protection.

3. Respect the principle and right to non-refoulement.

4. Respect the principle of non-rejection at the border. For this purpose, carry out an analysis of the particular conditions and necessities of international protection and special protection to determine whether they should be recognized as refugees or if they require complementary or subsidiary protection.

5. Respect the right and principle of prohibiting collective deportations.

6. Implement mechanisms to identify people with specific protection needs, particularly women, children, the elderly, and LGBTI individuals.

7. Protect and provide humanitarian assistance to migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees within the State’s jurisdiction, in coordination with international organizations—such as UNHCR—, human rights national institutions, and civil society organizations.

8. Guarantee that deportations are only carried out on the basis of the true, fully informed, valid consent of the migrants, in a dignified manner, guaranteeing the respect of their human rights and the adoption of adequate measures for the evaluation of their needs and their reintegration in their countries of origin.

The IACHR positively notes that on October 19, the Mexican authorities requested the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to respond to the asylum requests that may arise from the arrival of the caravan and to provide the corresponding support to the applicants during their stay in Mexico. The IACHR welcomes the decision of the State of Mexico to guarantee access to its territory and to establish shelters, in coordination with international organizations and civil society organizations, to meet the immediate needs of the migrants and asylum seekers who make up the caravan. The IACHR also highlights the role played by the National Human Rights Commission of Honduras (CONADEH), the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico (CNDH), the Human Rights Ombudsman of Guatemala (PDH), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, as well as multiple civil society organizations, in providing humanitarian assistance to those that make up the caravan.

Within the framework of its mandate to promote and protect human rights, the IACHR reaffirms its willingness to provide technical assistance and contribute to strengthening the capacities of the authorities of the States of the region.

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. 225/18