IACHR and UN's Special Rapporteur Condemn Excessive Use of Force and Deportations of Migrants from Haiti at the United States' Southern Border

October 4, 2021

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants condemn the excessive use of force against migrants from Haiti in Del Rio, in the US state of Texas, as well as the removals and expulsions (to Mexico or directly to Haiti) conducted at the United States' southern border. They urge the United States to investigate this situation with due diligence, to punish anyone found guilty of wrongdoing, and to guarantee that these sorts of events will not happen again in the future.

According to the available reports, a migrant camp has emerged since September 17 near the border town of Del Rio and has brought together 14,000 people, most of them believed to be Haitians. Based on these reports and on the videos that have been posted on several media platforms, both institutions are concerned about the use of force by border patrol officers on horseback against individuals at the camp on September 19. In particular, the videos show blows with horse reins and other attacks against defenseless persons, including women, children, and adolescents. The IACHR and the Special Rapporteur are also concerned about mass returns of migrants on flights to Haiti.

The informal camp at Del Rio was allegedly dismantled on September 25, and thousands of migrants are believed to have been either returned or taken to other areas, like El Paso, Laredo, and the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border. Civil society organizations report the lack of clear criteria and detailed statistical data concerning these procedures.

In this context, the President of the United States condemned the violent acts committed by the mounted immigration officers, and the White House spokeswoman subsequently confirmed that the use of mounted immigration officers for migration control at the border in Del Río would be suspended and an investigation would take place.

The Inter-American Principles on the Human Rights of All Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons, and Victims of Human Trafficking state that security in migration checkpoints must always focus on protecting migrants and their rights. Coercion must only be used when all other means to control the situation have been exhausted, and even then, it needs to be strictly proportionate and necessary. The IACHR and the United Nations' Special Rapporteur therefore stress that border security operations must not be a hurdle for access to procedures that enable an individual assessment of protection needs. The IACHR and the UN's Special Rapporteur further stress that any measures and responses that are implemented must integrate a gender perspective and differential treatment concerning age, race, and other factors.

The IACHR and the UN's Special Rapporteur note the recommendations made in the former's Preliminary Observations on its visit to United States' southern border in 2019. The State must protect the right to request and be granted asylum, by taking all measures necessary to ensure access to the proceedings available to do so, and it must also remove barriers and unwarranted delays in proceedings. The State must further adapt domestic legislation to international standards, which state that migrating is not a crime—many people engaged in migration movements need international protection, while many others are vulnerable and require special protection.

In line with the report Due Process in Procedures for the Determination of Refugee Status and Statelessness and the Granting of Complementary Protection, the IACHR and the UN's Special Rapporteur stress the importance of State efforts to adapt and strengthen structures and institutions to address migration and provide protection. This requires ensuring these structures and institutions have the capacity to adequately process and assess (ensuring due process) the situation of the individuals who are currently part of migrant flows in the Americas.

The Inter-American Commission and the UN's Special Rapporteur therefore urge the United States to ensure the minimum standards for human safety and due process that are necessary to process and acknowledge the protection needs of all mobile individuals. The IACHR and the UN's Special Rapporteur also stress the State's duty to investigate recent events and to punish anyone responsible for violence and an excessive use of force against mobile individuals.

Both the IACHR's Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants and the United Nations' Special Rapporteur will continue to closely monitor the situation of mobile individuals around the Americas.

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. 260/21

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