Geneva / Washington, D.C. - In light of the meetings and measures adopted by several States in the region to address the massive arrival of Venezuelan migrants and refugees, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR); the United Nations Committee on Migrant Workers; the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child; the Regional Office for South America of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and, Mr. Felipe González, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, adopt the following joint statement.
The signatory organizations and experts of this Joint Statement call on States together with other relevant actors, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the civil society organizations, the academia, and the media to develop a coordinated response based on human rights and on the principle of shared responsibility to respond before, during and after the massive displacement of Venezuelan migrants and refugees.
According to United Nations figures, by June 2018 it was estimated that 2.3 million of Venezuelans leaved their country, mainly towards Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Chile. Likewise, UNCHR registered 299,016 asylum seekers and 585,996 Venezuelans that opted for other regularization alternatives as of August 1, 2018. The IACHR and the UN experts value that in this situation, the countries of the Americas have responded offering Venezuelans different migratory alternatives, or by recognizing them as refugees under the definition of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, as well as the expanded definition contained in the Declaration of Cartagena of 1984.
Nevertheless, the IACHR, the CMW, the CRC, OHCHR, and the UN experts also express their concern regarding discriminatory practices that have been observed in recent months in the region, ranging from the request for passports, certificates, apostilles, or other official documents for entry to their territories; the militarization of borders; to outbreaks of discrimination and xenophobic violence against the Venezuelan population in receiving localities.
In this regard, the IACHR and the UN experts observe that diverse American States and the Organization of American States (OAS) have been promoting different meetings and reunions to develop responses to the massive arrival of Venezuelan migrants and refugees to countries of the Americas, among them the Meeting of the Andean Council of Migration Authorities of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru on August 29, 2018; the Regional Technical Meeting on Human Mobility of Venezuelan Citizens in the Americas held in Quito, Ecuador, on September 3 and 4, 2018; and the extraordinary session convened by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States on September 5, 2018 with the purpose of considering the situation of Venezuelan migrants in the countries of the region. The signatories of this joint statement recognize the recent Declaration of Quito on Human Mobility of Venezuelan Citizens in the Region, adopted in Quito on September 4, 2018 as an advance for the development of a regional response.
The signatory organizations of the present Joint Statement, considering the Resolution 2/18 on Forced Migration of Venezuelans of the IACHR and the UNHCR Guidance Note on the Outflow of Venezuelans, recommend the American States the adoption of an international and regional coordinated response, based on human rights and in the principle of shared responsibility, that incorporates the following measures:
In order to prevent more Venezuelans from being forced to migrate, promote actions for the State of Venezuela to guarantee access, provision and free path of humanitarian assistance for the Venezuelan population that requires it, which must be given in accordance with the principles of humanity and impartiality and without any discrimination.
Guarantee entry to the territory for Venezuelans to seek international protection or satisfy urgent humanitarian needs, including recognition of refugee status. Likewise, adopt measures to guarantee the principle of family unity.
Expand regular, safe, accessible and affordable channels for migration through the progressive expansion of visa liberalization and easily accessible visa facilitation regimes and/or measures such as complementary protection, temporary protection, humanitarian visas, family reunification, visitor, work, resident, retirement, and student visas, and private sponsorship programs. These channels should be legally and economically accessible, which includes ensuring accessibility for Venezuelans who, for reasons beyond their control, do not have the documentation that is usually required for these procedures.
Guarantee the recognition of refugee status to Venezuelan people with a well-founded fear of persecution in case of return to Venezuela, or who consider that their life, integrity or personal freedom would be threatened due to the situation of violence, massive violations of human rights, and serious disturbances of public order, under the terms of the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees of 1984. This recognition must be granted through fair and efficient proceedings, with differential approaches that take into account age, gender and cultural characteristics, that guarantee the right of asylum seekers to receive assistance to satisfy basic needs or allow them work to sustain themselves while their claims are under study.
Consider the adoption of collective protection responses for the Venezuelan people, including the possibility of a prima facie or group determination of refugee status, which implies the collective or group recognition of individuals as refugees, without the need for an individualized evaluation.
Respect the principle and right of non-refoulement to Venezuelan territory, including the prohibition of rejection at the border and the prohibition of collective expulsions.
Implement mechanisms to identify persons who require international protection and special needs of protection, in particular women, children, indigenous peoples and afro-descendants.
Protect and provide humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans within national jurisdictions. Ensure that international organizations such as UNHCR, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the World Food Program (WFP), the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO-WHO), as well as other relevant international and regional organizations, national human rights institutions, and civil society organizations. Conditions to guarantee that these organisms are able to provide humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans must be ensured.
Adopt measures to guarantee international support and share responsibility in rescuing, receiving, and hosting Venezuelans. States should establish mechanisms to strengthen and coordinate search and rescue operations, investigation and forensic protocols, dignified treatment of the dead, identification and tracing of families through the safe exchange of ante-mortem, post-mortem and DNA information.
Guarantee access to the right to nationality. To achieve this, it is essential to guarantee and facilitate the registration of all births in a timely and delayed manner and to ensure access to nationality. Likewise, States must guarantee the existence of statelessness determination procedures as well as the granting of documentation proving nationality.
Implement a coordinated regional and international strategy based on shared responsibility and a human rights approach. Strengthen technical and financial assistance to the main countries and localities that receive Venezuelans, as well as ensuring and facilitating the free passage of humanitarian assistance, and grant persons engaged in the provision of such assistance rapid and unimpeded access.
Do not criminalize Venezuelan migration, avoiding the adoption of measures such as the closing of borders; penalties for irregular entry or presence; the requirement to present a passport in order to obtain international assistance and protection; immigration detention; arbitrary deportations; hate speech; and criminalization of people who provide humanitarian assistance.
To prevent discrimination and xenophobia against Venezuelans, States must implement positive measures such as educational and awareness campaigns aimed at promoting multicultural societies and fighting against discrimination and xenophobia.
Guarantee equal access to justice, including cross-border justice for human rights violations under fair, effective, and accessible conditions. It is necessary to conduct effective investigations, prosecute and, as appropriate, punish the perpetrators of such violations. It is essential to investigate all cases of deaths and disappearances, as well as of migrants in mass graves, with the cooperation of the authorities of all the States involved. Similarly, integral reparation should be guaranteed for any harm caused.
Provide a coordinated and integrated response to prevent, address, and ensure reparations for victims of human trafficking, and investigate, prosecute and punish this crime.
Implement measures to promote social integration and the resilience of Venezuelans, particularly by guaranteeing the rights to nondiscrimination, as well as economic, social, and cultural rights, including the right to work, education and social security.
Authorize and provide the necessary facilities for international and regional human rights organizations to make visits to the States of the American continent to monitor the situation of Venezuelans.
Within the framework of their mandates for the promotion and protection of human rights, the signatory organizations and experts of this Joint Declaration reaffirm their willingness to provide technical assistance and contribute to strengthening the capacities of the authorities of the States of the American continent.