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Statement from the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, in Commemoration of World Refugee Day

  June 20, 2022

On World Refugee Day, we, at the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, recognize the courage and contributions that refugees make to our societies daily, and to call attention to the challenges they face.

According to UNHCR's annual Global Trends report, by the end of 2021, the number of people displaced by war, violence, persecution, and human rights violations stood at 89.3 million, up 8% from a year earlier and well over double the figure of 10 years ago. In addition, the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in February of this year has generated the largest and fastest-growing forced displacement crisis since World War II, reaching the dramatic figure of 100 million forcibly displaced people globally.

Most of these people face additional challenges due to the long-term effects of the pandemic that has brought economic hardship, natural disasters, and other effects of climate change.

In the Americas, there are more than 17 million forcibly displaced persons, including internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, and refugees. More than 6 million Venezuelans have fled to other countries, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean, and are in need of international protection. In our continent, countries such as Colombia have opened their doors and welcomed more than 1.8 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela. In addition, 4 of the 10 countries of origin with the highest number of asylum seekers are in Latin America and the Caribbean. Thus, by the end of 2021, there were more than 1.1 million refugees and asylum seekers from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala worldwide, in addition to the more than 100,000 Nicaraguans who have sought asylum fleeing the growing socio-political crisis, mainly in Costa Rica, in the last year.

Against this backdrop, the OAS General Secretariat recognizes that protecting people forced to flee must continue to be a priority responsibility of the OAS Member States and the region. In this regard, we will continue to work closely with the Member States and international organizations such as the UNHCR, to provide attention and protection for internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, and refugees, as well as to provide them with durable solutions to ensure their integration into their host communities, be resettled to a third country in the most vulnerable cases or have the opportunity to return home in dignity and safety.

We, therefore, call for guaranteeing the right to seek asylum, reaffirming the principle of non-refoulement, and the rights of equality and non-discrimination, and providing humane treatment to people forced to flee, whoever they are, wherever they come from, and whenever they are forced to flee.

There are encouraging notes in the region. We welcome the efforts undertaken by 20 countries endorsing the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection within the framework of the IX Summit of the Americas. This declaration should provide the basis for working together to develop a coordinated regional response to manage migration and respond to forced displacement, as well as to strengthen the frameworks for protection and international cooperation. All this follows the principles of international cooperation, solidarity, shared responsibility, and respect for human rights. Count on the support of the OAS to develop multilateral actions that strengthen and fulfill the agreements reached in this Declaration.

From the OAS General Secretariat, we call to continue working together, faithful to the humanitarian tradition of our region, to welcome, protect and integrate internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, and refugees, to ensure that no one is left behind and that they have the right to a life of dignity and peace too.

Reference: E-033/22