IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. / Panama City - Washington, DC The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Regional Office for Central America of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) welcomed the actions implemented by the States of Panama and Costa Rica, which enabled more than 300 Nicaraguans who were in Panama awaiting authorization from the Nicaraguan authorities to return to their country to do so. The IACHR and the OHCHR acknowledged the efforts made to provide 129 Nicaraguans at the Paso Canoas border crossing between Panama and Costa Rica with humanitarian assistance and access to PCR tests. The two organizations also stressed the need for prevention and nonrepetition strategies to be sought through the adoption of laws, policies, and practices that ensure the protection of the human rights of all people in their territory and under their jurisdiction, regardless of migratory status.
According to the information received, a group of more than 300 Nicaraguans who were affected by the loss of employment and livelihoods during the COVID-19 pandemic have sought to return to Nicaragua since January 2021. Some of these individuals reportedly sold their belongings to take the COVID-19 PCR tests required to enter Nicaragua and to pay for transportation to return. Following efforts made by the Panamanian and Costa Rican authorities, the last group of Nicaraguans in Paso Canoas began their return to Peñas Blancas on the Costa Rica–Nicaragua border on February 11, 2021. Five people must remain in Panama in mandatory quarantine and under medical observation after testing positive for COVID-19.
The IACHR and OHCHR acknowledged the complexity of the extraordinary measures that States including Nicaragua have taken to tackle the current health emergency. The two organizations reiterated that these measures should be based on the principle of equality and nondiscrimination and must be proportional to the ends they pursue. On this point, the IACHR and the OHCHR recalled that according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Principles on the Human Rights of All Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons, and Victims of Human Trafficking, and Resolution 1-20 on pandemics and human rights, all people have the right to return to their State of nationality, regardless of their migration status, and States must guarantee this right through cooperation, while respecting existing health protocols. Likewise, States should promote lasting, sustainable solutions that enable returnees to rejoin their societies by including them in national pandemic response, social protection, and recovery strategies.
In this context, the IACHR and the OHCHR called on the States in question to promote and adapt strategies for coordination, cooperation, information exchange, and logistics support to allow these people translate into ensure their safe, dignified, voluntary return to Nicaragua. States must also adopt all the measures needed to guarantee adequate, timely health care and assistance for people with COVID-19, particularly those in vulnerable situations. Likewise, the IACHR and the OHCHR called once more on the State of Nicaragua to take the necessary measures to allows Nicaraguan nationals return and enter the country in a dignified, safe, voluntary manner, ensuring that the application of health protocols in the context of the pandemic prioritizes the protection of human life, integrity, and health.
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.