The Americas and the Caribbean, August 22, 2018
To Regional Governments
To all Pertinent International Organizations
and society in the Americas and the Caribbean
We urge States across the region and members of the international community, to redouble their efforts and work together in the face of the massive forced displacement of more than two million Venezuelans, currently spread among several countries in the Americas. In tandem with the working group standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Venezuela, we would like to underscore the importance of generating a coordinated regional response grounded in a stronger protection and prevention of the violation of the rights of migrants, some of whom may be in need of international protection.
The crisis currently faced by the region is unparalleled in the history of our continent due to the sheer quantity of people leaving the country and the relative speed at which this displacement is occurring. As a result, all actors and stakeholders share equal responsibility in strengthening, improving and developing new internal mechanisms that collectively address this increased human mobility.
As concerned citizens, we reject any regressive measures that result in the restriction, elimination or suspension of the fulfillment of the rights of all migrants and asylum seekers, irrespective of their human mobility situation. In this regard, it is with great concern that we note the recent measures adopted by the governments of Ecuador and Peru requiring all Venezuelans to present their passports as the only means of identification to access either country.
Likewise, we reject all attempts, legal or otherwise, to close the borders to prevent the passage of this or any other population in need of international protection or humanitarian aid. These measures are not only contrary to international standards on human rights and international refugee law, but in some cases, laws found in the constitutional order of the countries concerned. Moreover, these types of measures only serve to place people in a situation of extreme vulnerability and facilitate human trafficking, contribute to the separation of families, and limit the ability of a State to identify and provide the specialized attention that certain groups need, among them children, just to cite a few examples.
That is why we propose the following:
1. Given the magnitude of the phenomenon of human mobility in the Americas, we ask States to address this issue through a concerted regional strategy that incorporates extensive consultations with civil society organizations. The goal will be to generate coordinated and complementary alternatives that provide long-term solutions with an integral approach to human rights.
2. Due to the difficult and precarious conditions under which people travel, it is important to address this humanitarian crisis through effective and articulated mechanisms, such as the creation of humanitarian corridors in which people can exercise their right to free mobility with security. That is why we call on States to lead the delivery processes of humanitarian aid in each of their territories, which implies providing temporary places of rest, access to basic foods, access to healthcare systems, particularly for social groups in a situation of greater vulnerability, and any other services necessary to guarantee the life and safety of migrants.
3. States must move forward to regularize the migratory status of these people, to guarantee the enjoyment of the rights of each individual, regardless of their situation of mobility, and thereby work to eliminate the greatest amount of possible risks. States should avoid placing emphasis on whether these people are in transit, temporarily or as a final destination, and focus their efforts on guaranteeing their human dignity. Alternatively, processes of flexibilization of requirements for access to migratory documentation or immigration amnesty could be developed.
4. We request each State to adopt measures for the rapid and effective identification of persons who are in need of international protection, as proposed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Commission. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). These measures can be carried out in this context through the implementation of collective recognition of refugee status.
5. Migration regularization measures, such as identifying the need for international protection, are fundamental steps to open up spaces useful for the local integration of migrants.
6. There is a long-standing tradition of legal frameworks on human mobility in the region. As a result, States must ensure that the standards established in the international and regional legal frameworks on this matter are duly enforced. They must also respond to the implementation of the recommendations and advisory opinions of the specialized bodies and mechanisms of the Inter-American Human Rights System and the United Nations. For this reason, we reiterate our call to States to take proactive measures in the defense of the rights of migrants and reject security-focused approaches that can lead to human rights violations, such as the closing of borders, deportations and collective expulsions, and other forms of criminalization of human mobility.
7. This crisis has activated a large number of social, humanitarian and human rights organizations, whose members and volunteers are dealing with addressing the needs of Venezuelans forced to migrate. States must recognize and support the work of these organizations, facilitating coordination spaces with official entities to ensure an effective response to the situation.
8. It is with special interest that we call on States to take measures to protect the defenders of the rights of migrants and refugees against any threats and reprisals arising from their work.
9. We urge the States to comply with the comprehensive exercise of rights by the Venezuelan population and in this way guarantee a mechanism for access to basic rights and services. In particular, we request greater consideration for the special needs of children, adolescents, women (particularly those who are pregnant), people affected by diseases and with special health requirements, LGBTI population, indigenous people, the elderly, people with disabilities, among others.
10. We call on civil society to act with empathy and solidarity towards all displaced persons, and to avoid any acts of discrimination, xenophobia and violence. We must remember that at some point in the region’s history, many countries saw the exodus of its own citizens. For many decades, Venezuela was a receiving country for many. Just as humanitarian measures were demanded to guarantee rights of these groups, we must see an opportunity to repay the help given to their compatriots in each Venezuelan citizen forced to leave their home.
11. We call on the human rights organizations of the Inter-American System and the United Nations to monitor and condemn the human rights violations that occur more and more frequently due to the magnitude of the challenge facing the region in order to identify and work together to address the problem.
12. Finally, we call for the prompt establishment of a hemispheric forum in which all relevant actors can contribute to the identification and design of the best tools and mechanisms to achieve all the objectives set out in this declaration. In response, we express our total commitment to States and international organizations to collaborate in the realization of such an important event.
Francisco Quintana, CEJIL, Washington,D.C.: firstname.lastname@example.org Guillermo Rovayo, Misión Scalabriniana, Ecuador: email@example.com Ligia Bolívar, Centro de Derechos Humanos de la UCAB, Venezuela: firstname.lastname@example.org César Ruiz, Encuentros Servicio Jesuita de la Solidaridad, Perú: email@example.com