WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(AP Photos/Oliver de Ros)

22 Jan 2021 | Joint Statement

Civil Society Organizations Issue Statement Calling for Humane Response to New Caravan

On January 15, over 300 civil society organizations and individuals endorsed a statement calling on the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States to ensure the humane treatment of migrants from Central America traveling in a caravan in the region. The statement calls on those governments to respect their domestic and international laws by guaranteeing the possibility to seek asylum for those fleeing violence and persecution, as well as the impacts of hurricanes Eta and Iota on the region, among other demands.

The statement discusses the socio-political climate that has forced so many people to leave their homes, as well as the unique vulnerabilities of marginalized groups in Central America, including women, LGBT+, and Indigenous groups. The United States through the “Remain in Mexico” program and Asylum Cooperation Agreements with several regional governments has set the conditions for oppressive responses that violate the safety and rights of those attempting to leave.

The signatures express concern about the dangers of employing the armed forces to respond to the caravan given their security role and lack of training to interact with vulnerable populations. These concerns proved to be well founded when on January 18 Honduran migrants were forcibly turned back or detained by armed forces in Guatemala who did not permit them to pass. 

The statement also raises alarm about efforts from governments in the region to impede their own citizens from leaving the country and of the Mexican government’s past warnings to criminally prosecute migrants who expose others to the risk of COVID-19 instead of implementing sanitary measures to guarantee the right to seek asylum. 

To address these concerns, the statement outlines conditions that guarantee humane treatment of migrants in compliance with international law:

  • Guarantee the right to seek asylum in the country chosen by the person as a safe destination. 
  • Include assessments of protection needs, to ensure the principle of non-refoulement of persons to a country where their lives and fundamental freedoms are at risk. 
  • Address humanitarian needs in accordance with biosecurity protocols to avoid the spread of COVID19, as well as to include the migrant population and those who assist them in the preventive measures and health care in this context. 
  • Implement informative campaigns to ensure that the persons know their rights. 
  • Refrain from detaining asylum seekers and comply with the Mexican legislation that prohibits the detention of unaccompanied and accompanied children and adolescents. 
  • Ensure that the States’ responses actively involve the competent authorities on refugees, health, protection of the rights of children and other bodies responsible for the wellbeing and rights of vulnerable groups in the design and implementation of any measure. 
  • Promote and guarantee the accountability of migration officials and other elements deployed for immigration enforcement actions in case of crimes or human rights violations against migrants and persons seeking international protection, as well as of those who defend their rights. 
  • Withdraw military elements from immigration enforcement and verification actions, including the National Guard in Mexico, and ensure that these actions are carried out by civil authorities. 
  • Ensure that all persons who have valid documents showing that they applied for asylum in the United States under the Remain in Mexico Program can travel freely and safely to the port of entry where they need to follow their immigration proceedings.

Read the statement here.