By Carmen Victoria Montes
Before continuing with the analysis of this issue, it is necessary to identify the difference between two terms used interchangeably by the countries: refugees and migrants, in order to treat it in accordance with the provisions of international law. According to UNHCR, refugees are people fleeing armed conflict or persecution and seeking protection from other countries. Refugees, protected by international law, must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are in danger. Until they are granted refugee status, these migrants are asylum seekers.
Migrants, for their part, choose to move to improve their lives and not because they are in danger. Unlike refugees, migrants continue to receive protection from their government even while abroad. When the reasons for the displacement are purely economic, this person is called an economic immigrant.
The current crisis of migrants and refugees, coming from Syria and African countries, has been reflected by different International Organizations that are in charge of this matter. According to UNHCR, Syrians harassed by violence in their country and instability in neighboring countries swell the number of migrants seeking a future in Europe. An estimated 79,655 Syrians crossed the Mediterranean from January to July. Eritreans 26,657, living under a dictatorship that subjects them to systematic, widespread and flagrant violations of human rights, rank second. For their part, 25,556 Afghans burdened by political instability, insecurity and insurgent attacks illegally crossed the Mediterranean in the first seven months of the year.
According to the International Organization for Migration, some 2,000 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, making this the deadliest route for irregular immigration. The vast majority of the deaths occurred on the Sicilian Channel, the Central Mediterranean route connecting Libya and Italy.
Returning to the indistinct use that some countries give to the term refugees or migrants, it should be clarified that most of the people who have migrated to Europe in 2015 come from countries affected by war or that are considered as countries that send refugees, and therefore therefore they require international protection. However, a smaller part of them comes from other places and for these people the term migrant is the appropriate one.
The fact that a country refuses the entry of refugees would be incurring international responsibility; They are protected by international law and should not be expelled or returned to situations in which their life and freedom are in danger. Until they are granted refugee status, migrants are asylum seekers. According to the explanation of María Cristina García, professor of History and specialist in migration issues at Cornell University, in New York, most European countries are signatories of the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and / or the 1967 Protocol. This means that they recognize that refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to certain protections including non-refoulement (forced return under dangerous or repressive conditions).
The response given by the countries of Europe, the main destination of these migrations, has been debated by the members of the European Union. According to the EU's Dublin Convention, migrants should request asylum in the place through which they enter and are registered for the first time in the bloc, however due to the refusal of some countries, including Germany, to apply that protocol , a shared responsibility for quotas was raised to host the 120,000 refugees in a period of two years, which was approved without the support of the Eastern countries (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania). The Member States participating in the refugee sharing system will host 66,000 refugees from Italy and Greece in a first phase. In a second phase, the remaining 54,000 will be relocated, which have remained in a reserve and which would also foreseeably come from Greece and Italy.
The Latin American and Caribbean countries, including: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico and Venezuela, despite being geographically distant, have also shown their solidarity with the current humanitarian crisis, especially with Syrian citizens fleeing the war.
Brazil: According to data provided by the National Committee for Refugees, Conare, dependent on the Brazilian Ministry of Justice, this country welcomed 2,077 Syrians.
Argentina: According to the National Commission for Refugees, this country, where there is an important Syrian community, gave asylum to 233 since the beginning of the conflict. In 2014, it implemented the so-called Syria Program to reunify families and allow the legal entry of Syrians without a criminal record. As a result of the wave of people that arrived in Europe, some municipalities volunteered to host Syrian families, such as Pilar, in the province of Córdoba, which offers land and work for some 50 families who want to settle there.
Uruguay: According to data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this country received 44 Syrian refugees. In October 2014, the then Uruguayan President, José "Pepe" Mujica, personally received 42 Syrian citizens at the Montevideo airport, to whom he offered asylum. Mujica also publicly urged other South American countries to help Syrian families fleeing the war.
Chile: According to the Interior Ministry, it accepted the refugee request of 10 Syrians and is evaluating welcoming more people soon.
Mexico: Promotes the arrival of thirty Syrian students through a citizen initiative, the Habesha Project.
Venezuela: The government of Venezuela expressed its intention to receive refugee families. President Maduro expressed "I want 20,000 Syrians, Syrian families to come to our Venezuelan homeland to share this land of peace, to this land of Christ, of Bolívar, to work with us and to contribute with their love and their song to God with development. of this magical land ".
The current migration crisis reveals the progress and weaknesses that persist at the regional and international level in the area of migration and refugees. In the case of the European Union, they do not have a common asylum system with equal rights throughout the EU; they lack safe and legal routes, in order to avoid deaths on dangerous routes.
In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, our region does have a long humanitarian tradition in welcoming people fleeing war and persecution. In this regard, the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees should be highlighted, which is a non-binding regional instrument, adopted by a group of governmental experts from Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama. and Venezuela. The importance of the Cartagena Declaration as a regional protection tool has been reiterated by the United Nations (UN) and by the Organization of American States (OAS). It establishes a series of recommendations for humanitarian treatment and durable solutions for those in need of international protection, and is internationally known for its recommendation to expand the definition of refugee applicable in the region, which has been included in the national legislation of fourteen countries.
The Governments of Latin America and the Caribbean participated in the ministerial meeting, held in Brasilia, on December 2 and 3, 2014, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees. At this meeting they adopted by acclamation the Declaration and Plan of Action of Brasilia, a document through which the Ministers commit to work together to maintain the highest protection standards at the international and regional level, implement innovative solutions for refugees and displaced persons, and put an end to the difficult situation faced by stateless people in the region.
The United Nations Security Council approved a Resolution on Friday, October 9, which addresses the current crisis of refugees and migrants with a military and security approach. The resolution was proposed by Great Britain and had 14 votes in favor and the abstention of Venezuela; it supports an operation already launched by the naval forces of the European Union to try to stop the flow of thousands of migrants and refugees.
With the resolution passed by the UN, European naval forces can intervene by force to inspect, confiscate and even destroy the vessels used by traffickers. Migrants found in these boats will be brought to safety and transported to Italy so that their asylum claims can be examined, while the smugglers will be put on trial.
Our country abstained, according to the explanation provided by Rafael Ramírez, Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations (UN), because in his opinion it will not be by building walls or acting militarily that this serious problem will have a solution. The ambassador considered that “beyond the argument of fighting against criminal gangs, the purpose of this resolution is simply to prevent these human beings from reaching a safer destination, that is, the policies of the walls are imposed (…) the rights The human rights of these citizens and their humanitarian situation must prevail over material considerations or a conception of the safety of innocent people who are victims of a drama ”. He expressed that the humanitarian tragedy of migrants should be addressed in a broader and more democratic debate within the United Nations General Assembly.
The United Nations, instead of promoting Resolutions that endorse military action, should be concerned with guaranteeing peace in the world, the purpose for which it was created. As long as organizations and countries do not address the root of this problem, the causes and consequences, thousands of affected people will continue to expose their lives to achieve a better destiny for themselves and their family.
The inclusion of the migration issue and human mobility in four of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, recently approved at the United Nations Summit, held in September, represents an important advance in the recognition of this problem. The development of a Migration Governance Index (MGI), which will be developed by the International Organization for Migration, will further engage governments to develop policies, create successful frameworks and strategies for migration.