Press Release

IACHR Regrets the Death of Venezuelans, Including Children, and Urges States to Guarantee Access to Asylum and International Protection Procedures

December 15, 2020

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Washington, DC—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regrets the death of at least 19 Venezuelans, including women, children, and adolescents, who were allegedly forced to leave Venezuela and cross the maritime zone towards Trinidad and Tobago. The IACHR urges Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago to immediately implement a serious, impartial, effective investigation into these events, including an analysis of whether human trafficking was involved.
According to the available information, the vessel with an unknown number of people allegedly left the Venezuelan coast towards Trinidad and Tobago and sank some days before December 12. The wreckage was allegedly found 6.3 nautical miles from the city of Güiria, Sucre, within Venezuela’s jurisdiction. The IACHR notes that the maritime border zone between the two States represents an area of risk for migrants and refugees in the region. In its recent visit to the Colombia–Venezuela border, civil society organizations informed the IACHR that other incidents of this nature have occurred in the area, including the sinking of the vessel Jhonnayli José in April 2019, when 28 people disappeared.
In response, the IACHR notes that the deterioration of the human rights situation in Venezuela is directly affecting the country’s population and is causing Venezuelans to seek to move to other states in the region. Of particular concern is how the escalation of the humanitarian and human mobility crisis in Venezuela is prompting people to leave the country using increasingly high-risk maritime routes with neighboring countries. In line with this, the IACHR recalls that in Resolution 2/18 it noted that the serious, complex humanitarian crisis and forced migration of Venezuelans to other countries is a crisis that is reaching across borders and thus requires a regional and international response that is rooted in shared responsibility and respect for these individuals’ human rights.
In this regard, the IACHR urges Trinidad and Tobago to guarantee access to both its territory and to protection procedures for people from Venezuela, observing the guarantees of due process and guaranteeing the jus cogens of nonrefoulement.
Finally, the Inter-American Principles on the Human Rights of All Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons, and Victims of Human Trafficking state that all people have the right to remain in their country of origin or habitual residence and must be protected against actions or omissions which compel them to move in a forced manner. This includes persecution, gross violation of human rights, poverty or extreme poverty, inequality, marginalization, and lack of opportunities for people to live in dignity and develop, and situations that may jeopardize people’s lives, security, or freedom.

No. 299/20