IACHR Calls for International Solidarity, Urges States to Protect the People Who Have Been Forced to Flee from Nicaragua

December 20, 2021

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about the increasing number of people who have been forced to flee Nicaragua and to request international protection in the context of the ongoing serious human rights crisis in the country. The IACHR calls on States in the Americas to ensure comprehensive protection for all individuals from Nicaragua who are in human mobility contexts and are fleeing from crisis and violence.

In 2021, the IACHR has heard reports of an increase in the number of Nicaraguans who have been forcibly displaced due to more intense repression and to the atmosphere of fear and persecution that persists in Nicaragua against all individuals who are considered government critics. According to publicly available reports, by October, the State of Costa Rica had received at least 39,000 new requests for refuge from Nicaraguans, with a significant increase since May. According to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 50,722 Nicaraguans tried to enter the United States during 2021, amounting to a 1,500% rise compared to 2020 data. According to data issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 110,000 individuals have been forced to flee Nicaragua and request international protection since the start of the crisis in April 2018.

Based on statements and other information received by the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), the IACHR notes that, in many cases, the people who have been forcibly displaced had previously been victims of direct threats of arrest by officers of the National Police or government supporters. In many other cases, the affected individuals said they lived in a climate of fear and unease due to the constant presence of National Police officers close to their homes and to the fact that they had been followed and subjected to surveillance or had even been denied the option of moving to other departments.

Some of the main groups who have fled Nicaragua are human rights defenders and journalists; students who had taken part in demonstrations in April 2018; legal representatives of individuals who were deprived of liberty; healthcare workers who opposed government policies; people who had been released from detention based on the 2019 Amnesty Act; relatives of individuals who had been detained or murdered in the context of the crisis; and, in general, political and social movement leaders who had been subjected to threats given the persistence of arbitrary arrests in the country.

Individuals who are identified as government critics and seek to leave Nicaragua are sometimes interrogated and subjected to reviews of their personal documents, computers, and cell phones by National Police officers at the airport. According to the statements the IACHR has had access to, these actions allegedly seek to prevent the relevant individuals from exposing on an international scale the situation of human rights in Nicaragua. These practices allegedly encourage people to attempt to flee through irregular routes or "blind spots."

The IACHR stresses that, in keeping with Resolution 04/19, Inter-American Principles on the Human Rights of All Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons, and Victims of Human Trafficking, States have an obligation to mitigate the causes of displacement and to reduce the vulnerability of migrants going through their territories, particularly displaced persons or individuals who go into exile for humanitarian reasons.

The Commission reminds States that they must enable access to regularization for individuals who are in irregular situations, taking into account their circumstances of entry, the duration of their stay in the country, and other relevant considerations.

The IACHR issues a special call for regional and international solidarity, to address the risks faced by individuals in human mobility contexts given the serious human rights situation in Nicaragua. When people are expelled or sent back to their countries of origin or of usual residence without adequately establishing their potential international protection needs, they may have to face situations like those that forced them to leave in the first place.

The IACHR therefore urges States to implement or strengthen regional cooperation and shared responsibility mechanisms to address the causes of displacement, expand and improve regular migration channels, ensure access to territories and processes to provide international protection, and implement social inclusion measures without discrimination, in favor of these individuals. The IACHR calls on Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) to implement the recommendations made in the IACHR report  in order to protect the rights of Nicaraguan migrants and refugees.

Finally, the Commission stresses that the State of Nicaragua must immediately end persecution against individuals who are considered government critics.

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. 346/21

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