During the past few days, the Guatemalan and Mexican governments have implemented a widespread troop deployment –including both military and special forces– in order to head off, halt, and disband the migrant caravan of around four thousand people that set out for the United States from San Pedro Sula, Honduras last Wednesday, September 30.
There are precedents of violent repression against prior caravans, especially along the border between Guatemala and México, including the criminalization of the journalists and human rights defenders who have accompanied them. Thus, this recent deployment of security forces is not only a flagrant violation of the right to freedom of movement of persons, a right recognized by the United Nations, but is also a risk to the security of all of the people who make up the caravan, including journalists and women human rights defenders.
For the last few years, the migrant caravans have been an alternative chosen by thousands of Central American families and individuals seeking better living conditions in other countries. In most cases they have fled from criminal, institutional, social and economic violence that they experience on a daily basis in their native lands, a reality now exacerbated at an alarming rate. Once again it is important to take up the call that has been made by international bodies to guarantee basic standards of international human rights, primarily the principle of humanitarian law of non-refoulement (no return), which prohibits sending any person back to a situation of real and foreseeable risk.
The risks now occur in a context of heightened xenophobia, fueled by fear of the pandemic, disinformation, and the alarming rise of fascist and racist ideologies in the entire region.
For these reasons, we of IM-Defensoras call on regional governments, especially those of Guatemala and Mexico, to order an immediate withdrawal of security forces and to respect the right to freedom of movement of all people who are part of the caravan. We thereby hold these governments responsible for the security and integrity of all participants and demand that they provide the humanitarian resources, such as food, health care and lodging, that may be necessary to guarantee their safe passage.
Likewise, in keeping with the demand of the IACHR to OAS members, we call on these to apply human rights principles in the recognition and development of rights, standards, resources, norms and public policies with regards to all migrant people, independently of their migratory situation and specific international needs, and we further call on all regional leaders and government officials to adopt responsible attitudes and express full respect for human rights in their statements, so as to never encourage or justify xenophobic postures in any way.
Moreover, we call on the news media to be responsible in the dissemination of information in the framework of international law, avoiding journalistic coverage that stigmatizes or criminalizes migrant persons.
And finally, we send out a Mesoamerican call to all of you to shoulder responsibility, support, and stand in solidarity with people in our region who have left their homes and native lands in search of better living conditions for themselves and their families in keeping with their inalienable, universal human rights.