Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Progress on the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Mexico

June 13, 2017

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes measures being implemented in Mexico so that asylum seekers can be at liberty while their proceedings are pending. The Commission reiterates its recommendation to the Mexican State to implement alternatives to immigration detention for migrants and persons subject to international protection.

Since July 2016, Mexico’s National Institute for Migration (INM) and the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) have been implementing alternatives to detention, in coordination with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and civil society organizations. They have been able to ensure that more than 1,000 people who had applied for recognition of refugee status may continue the procedures outside the migration detention centers. These measures are more in keeping with the Mexican State’s human rights obligations and have benefited families and children, as well as women and men, and have shown very successful results in terms of compliance.

The Commission also hails the decision issued April 19, 2017, by the Twentieth Administrative Court of the First Circuit, in which the judges decided to grant the suspension of immigration detention so that an asylum seeker could remain free pending the proceedings. This decision ruled that deprivation of liberty, by whatever name, must be an exception and must be proportionate to the objective being protected. The court therefore ordered the asylum seeker’s immediate release and established as an alternative to detention that the person had to sign in with the court every week. The IACHR also notes that the judgment reclaims standards established by the inter-American human rights system related to immigration detention as an exceptional measure, as well as the Mexican Supreme Court’s “Protocol of Action for those delivering justice in cases affecting migrants and persons subject to international protection.”

The IACHR observes that the measures that the State of Mexico has been implementing with regard to asylum seekers fall within a context in which applications for asylum increased by 1,000 percent from 2012 to 2016, with most requests coming from the Northern Triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras). The Commission notes that continuing to expand the implementation of alternatives to immigration detention is in line with meeting the recommendations on this issue made by the IACHR in its 2013 report Human Rights of Migrants and Other Persons in the Context of Human Mobility in Mexico and its 2015 report The Human Rights Situation in Mexico, as well as the 2014 Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action and the 2016 San José Action Statement.

The Commission calls to mind that, in accordance with the norms and standards of the inter-American human rights system, immigration detention should always be a measure of last resort, admissible only when it is reasonable, necessary, and proportionate, decided on a case-by-case basis, and used for the shortest time possible. At the same time, priority consideration should be given to the use of alternatives to detention. States may not resort to the immigration detention of children and their parents as a precautionary measure in immigration proceedings or proceedings to determine refugee status.

On this point, IACHR Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, said, “Currently the region is facing one of its major humanitarian refugee crises, and for us at the IACHR it is extremely troubling to see how the response of some States is to stigmatize migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees as criminals, as well as to resort to the widespread use of roundups, immigration detention, and summary deportations. That is why these measures being taken by Mexico are in the right direction and are in keeping with its international human rights obligations.” Rapporteur Vargas added, “It is possible to manage migration differently. These measures, taken together, are what it means to move toward a paradigm shift in which migration and asylum policies are consistent with a real and effective human rights approach. That is why we commend the authorities of Mexico and urge them to continue down this path.”

Finally, the IACHR reiterates its recommendation to the Mexican State to continue expanding the application of alternatives to immigration detention for migrants and persons subject to international protection, and urges the State to ensure that clear guidelines are in place for implementation of these measures to ensure that their use does not become discretionary or discriminatory.

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 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. 075/17