On December 10th, 1948 the UN established the commemoration of Human Rights Day, motivated by the Declaration of Human Rights. Its context is the end of the Second World War, marking that humanity would “never again” violate the rights of each human who inhabits this common home.
This aim of respecting human rights has been complicated, as humanity at the institutional level has not consolidated societies that care for and promote the quality of life throughout our common home. This reality of vulnerability and violation of human rights was revealed with greater force with the Covid-19 virus, and generated a pandemic that continues to devastate societies.
The 2021 Human Rights Watch report highlights a violation that threatens human life: that of denying “asylum” to migrants who have fled their lands because their lives were in danger. This report also highlights forced migration with the aggravating situation of climate change, especially the water reality. The violation being carried out is in not accepting the “well-founded fear of persecution,” a situation made visible by and approved in the 1951 Refugee Convention. This 2021 report highlights that the denial of asylum is a recurring practice and violation of the states.
As for the countries of Latin America, including the recent migratory flows from Venezuela, Haiti and Nicaragua in addition to ongoing flow from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, the most recurrent human rights articles that are violated are:
The right to life, liberty and security.
The right to request asylum.
The guarantee against torture, cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The guarantee against arbitrary arrests and detentions.
The right to health, education and housing.
As for the principle of “non-refoulement,” this is a migrant’s human right that is directly in the hands of the state and public servants. This principle consists of not returning to the country of origin those whose life, security and liberty are at risk in that place. Let us remember the main countries with migratory flow.
Venezuelans in the last 6 years have been forced to migrate, and according to UNHCR, some 5 million have left the country. Among those, 3.9 million are “displaced.”
The Haitian people began their massive forced migration from 2010 onward due to the earthquake. In 2012 half a million left for the Dominican Republic, where they had previously migrated. In 2016 the flows to the US began. They are now also going to countries like Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. They have recently been subject to xenophobia and rejection by some of these southern countries. Between 2019 and 2021, thousands of Haitian migrants have passed through Central America, crossing the Darién jungle shared between Panama and Colombia. Throughout this journey, there are ongoing violations of their human rights.
The dramatic reality of Central America is that there is an average of migrants leaving the region between 200 and 400 thousand per year. Most of them are forced to leave, and among the causes: the democratic crisis (dictatorships), inequality and impoverishment, structural, institutional, and family violence. Also, violations of the rights of indigenous peoples, effects of climate change and natural phenomena (hurricanes) have increased. In these countries, internal displacement has increased. Over the years, more than 110,000 Nicaraguans have applied for asylum to Costa Rica.
In recent years, the criminalization of migrants and the militarization of borders represent additional human rights violations. Outsourcing migration control often means deploying the armed forces, military police and other security forces with a military profile and training in border migration management tasks. Also, countries negotiate migration controls in exchange for resources for development and border control. The most affected and vulnerable groups on the journey to the US are children, adolescents, the elderly, the disabled or differently-abled, women, and the LGTI community. These groups become even more vulnerable as they travel.
Christians, who follow Jesus, must be sensitive to this drama that is playing out, and should react to the biblical question, “Where is your brother / sister?” A Christian response may be found in looking at reality with sensitivity and taking charge of the fallen (the good Samaritan), hunger and thirst for justice (beatitudes), compassion towards people who do not have a guide or leader (the multiplication of the loaves), defense of the most vulnerable against institutional patriarchy (the adulterous woman), and listening to the cries of those most in need (the widow whose daughter is sick). Sensitivity is the foundation of compassion and mercy, becoming a collective act in justice and solidarity.
Fr. René Flores, OFM
RFM – Equipo El Salvador
 Migrations in Mexico: borders, omissions and transgressions Report 2019