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Human Rights and Immigrant Rights Groups Call for Inclusive Civil Society Consultation and Transparency in Regional Negotiations on Migration

Today, the Ministerial Conference on Migration and Protection in Panama co-hosted by the U.S. and Panama kicks off. This conference takes place a month after the U.S. and Costa Rica announced a joint arrangement on migration and protection and in the leadup to the Ninth Summit of the Americas that the U.S. will host in June. Although migration is not specifically one of the Summit’s five thematic pillars, President Biden announced that a regional declaration on migration and protection will be signed at the convening and migration-related initiatives will be discussed 

In response, the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA), Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS), Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL), Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración (IMUMI), Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), Latin America Working Group (LAWG), and Refugees International (RI) released the following statement:   

“Our organizations call on the more than 20 participating governments of the Ministerial Conference to ensure that a collaborative regional approach be developed in consultation with civil society and that it prioritizes respect for migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees through increased protection and complementary legal pathways, humanitarian assistance, and access to justice. 

“While we recognize the U.S. government’s recent efforts to discuss progress made on their collaborative migration management and root causes strategies with civil society organizations, we are concerned about the lack of inclusive consultation in regional negotiations on migration and protection. We call on the Biden administration, together with regional governments, to discuss the regional declaration on migration and protection with civil society actors and to publicly release the text of relevant bilateral arrangements or agreements.” 

To contribute to these regional discussions, our organizations are also publishing a set of “Guiding principles for a regional framework on migration and protection in the Americas.”  In addition to prioritizing inclusive civil society consultation and transparency, the principles also call on any regional framework to: 

  • Guarantee an individual’s right to seek asylum, respect non-refoulement and access to territory to uphold existing domestic, regional, and international law and agreements; 
  • Center on protection and complementary pathways in addition to humanitarian assistance along the migratory route and prioritize protection needs and human rights in border management instead of enforcement measures; 
  • Create collaborative national and regional initiatives to jointly investigate and prosecute human rights violations and crimes against migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, to search for disappeared migrants, and to promote access to justice; 
  • Ensure responsibility sharing instead of responsibility shifting so that host governments and civil society organizations aren’t disproportionately left with the costs; 
  • Address the rights and needs of children and youth, women, families, Indigenous, Black, LGBTQIA+ and internally displaced populations, including by addressing the alarming rates of sexual and gender-based violence experienced by migrants crossing the Darien Gap and traveling through other regions of the Americas; 
  • Facilitate the integration of new arrivals and for migrants returning to their home countries. 

“Addressing regional migration cannot be solved by an enforcement-first approach. In the coming months, we urge governments to center discussions on the shared responsibility to ensure the right to seek asylum, access to complementary legal pathways and humanitarian assistance. Our organizations and others have immense expertise and experience that can assist governments as they meet the growing needs of migrants from all over the world. We look forward to helping promote safe, orderly, and humane migration throughout the hemisphere.”