Effectively Protecting the Human Rights of Refugees Requires Comprehensive, Lasting Solutions

June 20, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – On World Refugee Day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) call on States to continue to strengthen national asylum and international protection systems. The two organizations also ask States to adopt differentiated approaches to respond to the challenges they face as States and to satisfy the needs of the groups of refugees and asylum seekers who face the greatest risks.

According to the UNHCR's Global Trends report, by the end of 2021, there were 89.3 million people in the world who were displaced by war, violence, persecution, and human rights violations, up 8% relative to 2020 and double the figure for 2011. The Americas hosted over 5.1 million people who had been displaced across borders, amounting to 20% of the global figure, including refugees, asylum seekers, returnees, internally displaced persons, and stateless persons, among others. Of these 5.1 million people, 86% were Venezuelans. Also out of the 5.1 million people, 740,143 had been granted asylum and international protection, while 2,380,149 were awaiting resolution of their asylum requests.

The Commission and the UNHCR acknowledge the complexity and the mixed nature of increasing movements of people in the Americas, which generally involve individuals who travel in groups, often irregularly, using the same routes and means of transport and facing the same risks and challenges, even if they do so for different reasons. People travelling in mixed movements have different needs. These groups may include asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons, victims of human trafficking, unaccompanied or separated children, and migrants whose situation is irregular. This is made worse by the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups including refugees.

The Commission stresses that the persistent increase in the number of forced displacements in the Americas and the difficulties faced by people in human mobility contexts require a comprehensive approach from States. The IACHR therefore notes the importance of implementing a normative protection framework for these individuals. This would involve, in particular, the adoption of differentiated proceedings to assist and protect refugees and individuals who are not looking for international protection, based on access to rights and lasting solutions. This would help to address the challenges posed by large-scale mixed movements in the Americas.

It is worth noting that the international protection of refugees and asylum seekers, the provision of humanitarian visas, refugee resettlement efforts, and the adoption of mechanisms for temporary or subsidiary protection, legal stay agreements, and migrant regularization initiatives that include protection safeguards all entail comprehensive, supplementary, and lasting responses to protect the affected individuals and to ensure compliance with the Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action of 2014, the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees, and the Inter-American Principles on the Human Rights of All Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons, and Victims of Human Trafficking

These measures must also be integrated in States' national legislation and protection frameworks—rather than be merely adopted as temporary schemes—for people in human mobility contexts to be able to access these proceedings with all the safeguards of due process, so these mechanisms are effectively sustainable in the long run.

Finally, in the context of World Refugee Day, the IACHR and the UNHCR stress the need to adopt differentiated protection approaches to assist women and other especially vulnerable groups, including victims of human trafficking, victims of other crimes, accompanied, unaccompanied, and separated children and adolescents, individuals with disabilities, indigenous persons, older persons, LGBTI persons, and Afro-descendant persons.

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.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has been for 70 years the UN agency in charge of protecting refugees and people displaced by persecution, conflict, and other types of violence, and of seeking lasting solutions to their plight. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and has offices in more than 546 locations across 134 countries. In recognition of its work, the UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and 1981, as well as the Prince of Asturias Award in 1991.

No. 139/22

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